Why is Piers Morgan involved in Prince Harry's court case?

Prince Harry called out Piers Morgan after Friday's High Court ruling. (PA)
Prince Harry called out Piers Morgan after Friday's High Court ruling. (PA)

Piers Morgan has insisted he had “zero knowledge” of any article published in his time as editor of the Daily Mirror which may have involved illegal information gathering.

His statement was released hours after Prince Harry partially won a phone hacking claim against tabloid newspaper publisher Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) on Friday. In his ruling, Mr Justice Fancourt said 15 of 33 MGN articles tried in court about Harry and people linked to him “were the product of phone hacking”. Harry was awarded £140,600 in damages.

Part of the ruling accepted evidence that Morgan knew journalists were involved in phone hacking (though this evidence was related to one story about pop star Kylie Minogue, not Harry).

In a statement on behalf of the Duke of Sussex read outside the High Court, Harry's lawyer David Sherborne said: “The court had found that the Mirror Group’s principle board directors, their legal department, senior executives, and editors such as Piers Morgan, clearly knew about or were involved in these illegal activities.”

Morgan has always denied involvement in phone hacking. Here, Yahoo News UK explains why he is involved in the case.

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Piers Morgan at the Mirror

Morgan was editor of the Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004. He was sacked following controversy over whether images purporting to show British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners were fake. This did not harm Morgan's career. He moved into the world of television, appearing as a judge on America’s Got Talent in the US in 2006. He also won the US celebrity version of The Apprentice in 2008, in which he appeared alongside Donald Trump.

Watch: Prince Harry's statement after High Court ruling

He later landed his own show, Piers Morgan Live, on CNN. After that was cancelled in 2014, he was back in the UK the following year and started presenting Good Morning Britain on ITV. It was a row involving Harry himself which ended Morgan’s stint on the show in 2021.

He left following an on-air clash with fellow presenter Alex Beresford over the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s explosive Oprah Winfrey interview. Morgan had said he did not believe Meghan’s claims about race and mental health, with his comments sparking more than 50,000 complaints, the most in Ofcom’s history. Ofcom later said there was no breach of the broadcasting code.

Last year, Morgan launched his own show, Piers Morgan Uncensored, on TalkTV. He has continued to speak out against the duke and duchess.

Morgan mentioned multiple times in court

The trial between Harry and MGN took place in May and June this year with Harry one of a number of high-profile individuals suing MGN. On the first day of the trial on 10 May, the High Court was told the “systemic” use of private investigators by MGN journalists to unlawfully obtain private information was authorised by senior editors including Morgan.

David Sherborne, Harry’s lawyer, said it was “inconceivable” Morgan and other editors did not know about the practice. On 11 May, Sherborne said: “What we have, we say, is the direct involvement of Mr Morgan in a number of these incidents. Mr Morgan lies right at the heart of this in a number of ways. He was a very hands-on editor, also very closely connected to the board.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 14:  (FILE PHOTO) Editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper, Piers Morgan is seen in his office from 1997 at the tabloid's Canary Wharf headquarters in London. Morgan, was forced to resign from the paper on May 14, 2004 after it was proven that a set of photos he had published, purporting to show British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners were in fact fake. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Then-Mirror editor Piers Morgan pictured in his office in 1997. (Getty Images)

On 6 June, Harry alleged Morgan had been "intimidating" him and his wife since he launched the legal proceedings.

He said in a statement: “Unfortunately, as a consequence of me bringing my Mirror Group claim, both myself and my wife have been subjected to a barrage of horrific personal attacks and intimidation from Piers Morgan... presumably in retaliation and in the hope that I will back down, before being able to hold him properly accountable for his unlawful activity towards both me and my mother during his editorship.”

And in his ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Fancourt said he accepted the evidence of biographer Omid Scobie, formerly the royal executive editor at Yahoo UK, who told the High Court that Morgan was told about a time a phone was hacked.

Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan in his office at Canary Wharf, London, 14th December 1998. On the left is a framed front page attack on rival newspaper proprietor Rupert Murdoch. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Piers Morgan edited the Mirror between 1995 and 2004. (Getty Images)

During the trial earlier this year, the court was told Scobie did work experience at the Daily Mirror in 2002 and overheard Morgan being told information relating to Kylie Minogue and her then-boyfriend James Gooding had come from voicemails.

In his judgement on Friday, Mr Justice Fancourt said: “Mr Scobie was pressed hard about the likely veracity of these accounts… I found Mr Scobie to be a straightforward and reliable witness, and I accept what he said about Mr Morgan’s involvement in the Minogue/Gooding story.”

What Morgan has said

After the judge accepted the evidence about Morgan's involvement in the Minogue story, Morgan said on Friday afternoon that he had "zero knowledge" of how it came about. Speaking outside his London home, Morgan said: “I had then and still have zero knowledge of how that particular story was gathered. I also want to reiterate, as I’ve consistently said for many years now, I’ve never hacked a phone or told anyone else to and nobody has provided any actual evidence to prove that I did.”

Former Mirror editor Piers Morgan speaks to the media outside his home in west London on Friday. (PA)
Former Mirror editor Piers Morgan speaks to the media outside his home in west London on Friday. (PA)

Morgan did not give evidence during the case. In May, he said in an interview he has “never told anybody to hack a phone”. He told the BBC: “I think phone hacking is completely wrong and shouldn’t have been happening and it was lazy journalists being lazy.

He added: “There’s no evidence I knew anything about any of this." When asked about being seen as a hands-on editor, Morgan said: “I didn’t [know about hacking]. So I don’t care whether it stretches people’s credulity or not.”

This is Morgan's statement in full:

"Today a judge in the High Court in London has ruled on various cases including Prince Harry’s claim against Mirror Group Newspapers, where I was an editor until 2004. The judgment finds there is just one article relating to the prince published in The Daily Mirror during my entire nine-year tenure as editor that he thinks may have involved some unlawful information gathering.

“To be clear I had then, and still have, zero knowledge of how that particular story was gathered. All his other claims against the Daily Mirror under my leadership were rejected. With regard to the judge’s other references to me in his judgment, I also want to reiterate, as I’ve consistently said for many years now, I’ve never hacked a phone or told anybody else to hack a phone.

“And nobody has produced any actual evidence to prove that I did. I wasn’t called as a witness – this is important for people to know this – by either side in the case, nor was I asked to provide any statement. I would have very happily agreed to do either or both of those things had I been asked. Nor did I have a single conversation with any of the Mirror Group lawyers throughout the entire legal process.

“So I wasn’t able to respond to the many false allegations that were spewed about me in court by old foes of mine with an axe to grind, most of which, inexplicably, were not even challenged in my absence by the Mirror Group counsel. But I note the judge appears to have believed the evidence of Omid Scobie, who lied about me in his new book, and he lied about me in court, and the whole world now knows him to be a deluded fantasist.

“And he believed the evidence of Alastair Campbell, another proven liar who spun this country into an illegal war. Finally, I want to say this: Prince Harry’s outrage at media intrusion into the private lives of the royal family is only matched by his own ruthless, greedy, and hypocritical enthusiasm for doing it himself.

“He talked today about the appalling behaviour of the press but this is a guy who’s repeatedly trashed his family in public for hundreds of millions of dollars, even as two of its most senior and respected members were dying – his grandparents. It’s hard to imagine, frankly, more appalling behaviour than that.

“As for him saying this is a good day for truth, the duke has been repeatedly exposed in recent years as someone who wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped him around his California-tanned face. He demands accountability for the press but refuses to accept any for himself for smearing the royal family, his own family, as a bunch of callous racists without producing a shred of proof to support those disgraceful claims.

“He also says he’s on a mission to reform the media, when it’s become clear his real mission, along with his wife, is to destroy the British monarchy. And I will continue to do whatever I can to stop them.

“Merry Christmas.”