Hugh Grant has accused the publisher of The Sun of “using the law” to “cover up and conceal” unlawful activities by journalists and private investigators – which he alleges included “burglaries to order”.
The actor, 62, attended the final day of a hearing at the High Court, at which News Group Newspapers (NGN) is bringing a bid to have claims by him and the Duke of Sussex thrown out.
He arrived with his wife Anna Eberstein and his legal team and greeted gathered journalists as he entered the Rolls Building, in London.
Harry, 38, is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) over alleged unlawful information gathering at two of its titles, The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World – claiming that his private information was unlawfully accessed.
Mr Grant, who settled a claim against NGN relating to unlawful information gathering at the News Of The World in 2012, is now bringing a similar legal action in relation to The Sun.
NGN denies any unlawful activity took place at The Sun.
In a witness statement, the Love Actually star said: “My claim concerns unlawful acts committed by The Sun, including burglaries to order, the breaking and entering of private property in order to obtain private information through bugging, landline tapping, phone hacking, and the use of private investigators to do all these and other illegal things against me.”
He referred in the statement to evidence he gave to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards and ethics in 2011, in which he spoke about a break in at his London flat, where the front door was forced off its hinges and a story appeared shortly afterwards in The Sun that “detailed the interior”.
He said: “I had no evidence that this burglary was carried out or commissioned on the instruction of the press, let alone The Sun”. The actor added that he had been told by a private investigator in early 2022, which prompted him to launch his claim.
In his witness statement, the actor says he brought his recent claim after being passed information which “showed, for the first time, evidence that The Sun had targeted unlawful activity at me and my associates directly”.
He said the information included private investigator invoices and payments, and that they included the period during which the Leveson Inquiry into press standards and ethics was taking place.
Mr Grant said in the statement: “It was particularly shocking to learn that me and my associates, including members of my family who were not in any way in the public eye, had been targeted by The Sun during the Leveson Inquiry.
“It was widely reported and well known at the time these private investigators were commissioned – in November 2011 – that I was shortly going to be giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry which included NGN.
“I found it astonishing that The Sun carried out these unlawful acts against me at a time when I was preparing to give evidence to a public inquiry on press ethics.
“Of course, all of this was concealed from me at the time.”
His statement concludes: “I have invested a great deal of time in my campaign work for a better and ethical press.
“A corollary of that has been my interest and my own investigations to understand the truth.
“I have been shocked by what I have unearthed, without any help at all from the defendant, about unlawful acts committed by The Sun against me.
“The fact that it has now been confirmed, through my investigations, that these unlawful acts included targeted burglaries is truly appalling.
“The defendant clearly considers itself above the law and is using the law now in a way I believe it was never intended, that is to further cover up and conceal what it has done.
“I strongly believe that cannot be allowed to happen and that what it has done must be brought to light.”
A spokesperson for NGN said: “The Sun strongly refutes the allegation that it ever commissioned anyone to break into Hugh Grant’s home.”
NGN’s lawyers argue Mr Grant, a prominent campaigner on press ethics as a member of the Hacked Off group, should have been aware he had a claim in relation to The Sun much earlier, and had left it too late to bring the latest legal action.
Mr Grant’s lawyers argue he has only become aware more recently, following disclosure in the ongoing litigation over phone hacking, that there is evidence he was targeted by journalists and private investigators working for The Sun.
Harry’s lawyers argue NGN’s bid to have his claim thrown out is an attempt to go behind a “secret agreement” between the royal family as an institution and NGN, which the duke was informed of in 2012.
NGN has previously settled a number of claims since the phone-hacking scandal broke in relation to The News Of The World, which closed in 2011, but has consistently denied that any unlawful information gathering took place at The Sun.
Anthony Hudson KC, for NGN, told the court on Tuesday that Harry and Mr Grant had been “front and centre” of claims against the publisher over hacking and therefore could not possibly have failed to realise they had a potential damages claim much sooner.
The hearing is expected to conclude on Thursday and Mr Justice Fancourt will determine whether their claims will progress to a trial, which is due to be heard in January next year.
The judge is expected to give his ruling at a later date.