LONDON — Prince Harry entered a courtroom witness box Tuesday for his testimony against a tabloid publisher, as he accuses the publication of phone hacking and other unlawful snooping.
Dressed in a suit and maroon tie, the prince showed up at the High Court in a black SUV. Upon arrival, Harry held a Bible in one hand as he was sworn in.
This is the first of several lawsuits to go to trial. He accuses the publisher of the Daily Mirror of using unlawful techniques on an “industrial scale” to get scoops. Harry has made a mission of holding the U.K. press to account for what he sees as its hounding of him and his family.
On the stand, Harry told Mirror Group attorney Andrew Green that he had “experienced hostility from the press since I was born.” The prince accused the tabloids of playing “a destructive role in my growing up.”
Here’s everything that happened in court.
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Harry was forced almost immediately to acknowledge that he couldn’t recall specific articles he was complaining about. Green pressed him on how they could have caused such distress if he couldn’t remember having read them at the time.
“It isn’t a specific article, it is all of the articles,” he said. “Every single article has caused me distress.”
Green asked him to identify what evidence he had of phone hacking in specific articles, and Harry said he’d have to ask that question of the journalist who wrote it. He repeatedly said that the manner in which information had been obtained was highly or incredibly suspicious.
He said that it was also suspicious that some of the journalists had been known for hacking or invoices to third parties, including private investigators known for snooping, around the time of the articles.
When asked how reporters could have hacked his phone for an article about his 12th birthday – a time when he admitted he didn’t have a mobile phone – he suggested they may have hacked the phone of his mother, the late Princess Diana.
“That’s just speculation you’ve come up with now,” Green suggested.
In the same article, Green pointed out that a reference to him taking his parent’s divorce badly was obvious.
“Like most children I think, yes,” Harry said.
But the prince said it was not legitimate to report such information and “the methods in which it was obtained seem incredibly suspicious.”
Green then pointed out that his mother previously made public comments to reporters about the difficulties of her children after the divorce.
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The 38-year-old son of King Charles III will be the first British royal since the 19th century to enter a courtroom witness box. He will face cross-examination by a lawyer for the defendant, Mirror Group Newspapers.
Harry’s showdown against the publisher of the Daily Mirror kicked off Monday but the royal did not show up in court due to a travel conflict as he was in Los Angeles celebrating his 2-year-old daughter’s birthday Sunday. The judge was not happy.
“I’m a little surprised,” Justice Timothy Fancourt said, noting he had directed Harry to be in court for the first day of his case.
Mirror Group Newspaper’s lawyer, Andrew Green, said he was “deeply troubled” by Harry’s absence on the trial’s opening day.
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Setting out the prince’s case in court Monday, his lawyer, David Sherborne, said that from Harry’s childhood, British newspapers used hacking and subterfuge to mine snippets of information that could be turned into front-page scoops.
He said that stories about Harry were big sellers for the newspapers, and around 2,500 articles had covered all facets of his life during the time period of the case – 1996 to 2011 – from injuries at school to experimenting with marijuana and cocaine to ups and downs with girlfriends.
“Nothing was sacrosanct or out of bounds” for the tabloids, the lawyer said.
In a written witness statement published Tuesday, Harry said that he felt “as though the tabloid press thought that they owned me absolutely.”
“I genuinely feel that in every relationship that I’ve ever had – be that with friends, girlfriends, with family or with the army, there’s always been a third party involved, namely the tabloid press,” he said.
Harry said in court documents that the royal family had assiduously avoided the courts to prevent testifying about matters that might be embarrassing.
His frustration and anger at the press, however, impelled him to buck convention by suing newspaper owners.
The Daily Mirror case is one of three Harry has brought alleging phone hacking and other invasions of his privacy, dating back to when he was a boy.
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In court documents, he described his relationship with the press as “uneasy” in court documents, but it runs much deeper than that. The prince blames paparazzi for causing the car crash that killed his mother.
He also cites harassment and intrusion by the British press and “vicious, persistent attacks” on his wife, Duchess Meghan, including racist articles, as the reason the couple left royal life and fled to the U.S. in 2020.
News that British journalists hacked phones for scoops first emerged in 2006 with the arrest of a private investigator and the royals reporter at the now-defunct News of the World. The two were jailed, and the reporter apologized for hacking phones used by aides of Harry, his older brother, Prince William, and their father.