Charles and Diana ‘targeted illegally by newspaper investigators’, claims Harry
Prince Harry claims tabloid newspapers used private investigators to illegally target members of the Royal Family including King Charles and Princess Diana, the High Court has heard.
The Duke of Sussex is suing the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over unlawful newsgathering techniques and phone hacking allegedly carried out over the course of 15 years.
In documents presented to the High Court at the start of a seven-week trial, lawyers for Harry said there is evidence of private investigators being paid to target the Duke, his brother Prince William, King Charles, Princess Diana, and his sister-in-law Kate, Princess of Wales.
“There are also disclosed emails demonstrating the UIG (unlawful information gathering) which was being conducted by some of the PIs (private investigators) named…with the full knowledge of MGN’s journalists”, the documents states.
“These payment records show that the Duke of Sussex and his associates were of enormous interest to MGN’s journalists and subjected to very large amounts of UIG.”
It is said payments were also made for private investigators to target the late TV presenter Caroline Flack, who had been rumoured to be dating Harry, his friends Guy Pelly and Natalie Pinkham, ex-girlfriend Chelsy Day, aide Jamie Lowther Pinkerton, nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke, and Princess Diana’s mother Frances Shand-Kydd.
David Sherborne, representing Harry and his co-claimants, told the court the alleged hacking of the Duke’s mobile phone posed a “very real and large-scale security risk” for the Royal Family.
“(He) experienced unusual telephone and media-related activity which is consistent, now in hindsight but at the time unsuspected, with the unauthorised accessing of his voicemails and other unlawful information gathering”, he said.
Mr Sherborne added this included missed and hung-up calls “on an almost daily basis from numbers he did not recognise”.
“This unlawful activity, including in particular knowing where the Duke of Sussex was going to be at a given time and the widespread dissemination amongst MGN’s journalists of private information relating to him, posed a very real and large-scale security risk for the Duke of Sussex, his family and his associates.”
Harry is suing alongside Hollyoaks star Nikki Sanderson, Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell, and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.
In written documents for the claimants, former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan – now a TV host on Talk TV – is accused of having personal knowledge of phone hacking at the newspaper.
According to written submissions, former Mirror group political editor David Seymour is set to give evidence of Mr Morgan having “involvement in relation to an incident relating to phone hacking” involving Princess Diana.
“Mr Seymour also records that a colleague of his had reported to him that Piers Morgan had, at a lunch with then Chairman of Trinity Mirror Sir Victor Blank, mocked and taunted Ben Verwaayen, CEO of BT who was present, saying something to the effect of ‘you need to tell your customers to change the PIN numbers from factory settings, because otherwise you can just get into their voicemail messages’”, the statement continues.
Omid Scobie, the author of Finding Freedom about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, says in his witness statement that he did work experience on the Daily Mirror’s 3AM column in spring 2002.
“He recalls during one of those days in the office the editor, Piers Morgan, came over to talk to someone about a story relating to Kylie Minogue and her boyfriend James Gooding.
“Mr Morgan asked how confident they were in the reporting, and was told that the information had come from voicemails.”
Mr Scobie says he tracked down the article he believes this incident related to, where key information had been attributed to “friends”.
During the trial, Mr Morgan is also set to face claims he “obtained confidential and private information” about TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson, .
In his opening of the case, Mr Sherborne mentioned Mr Morgan as one of the editorial figures accused of knowing about and approving of unlawful newsgathering practices.
As allegations were being aired in the High Court, Mr Morgan posted on Twitter without comment a screengrab of a South Park episode mocking Harry and Meghan for seeking privacy.
On Wednesday, MGN offered an apology to Prince Harry for an incident of unlawful newsgathering at The People, when £75 was paid to a private investigator for information on the Duke’s night out at Chinawhite in 2004.
The media organisation, however, denies wider claims that the Prince was a phone hacking victim.
“Many (stories) came from information disclosed by or on behalf of Royal households or members of the Royal Family; from information and photographs sold to the newspaper by freelance journalists and news agencies, photographers and photography agencies; others from confidential sources (including sources with extensive royal contacts); prior reports in the public domain and, in one case, from an on-the-record interview given by the Duke of Sussex himself”, lawyers for MGN said.
Prince Harry is due to give evidence in the trial next month, breaking a long-standing traditional of Royal Family members not becoming personally embroilled in legal battles.
Mr Morgan, who has always denied involvement in phone hacking, is not expected to be a witness in the civil trial.
The case continues.