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Prince Harry claims The Sun paid to unlawfully get Meghan's social security number

The Duke of Sussex (centre) arrives at the Royal Courts Of Justice, central London, ahead of a hearing claim over allegations of unlawful information gathering brought against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) by seven people - the Duke of Sussex, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Sir Elton John, David Furnish, Liz Hurley, Sadie Frost and Sir Simon Hughes. Picture date: Monday March 27, 2023.
Prince Harry made a surprise appearance at the Royal Courts of Justice last month for a hearing over allegations of unlawful information gathering against Associated News Limited. (PA)

Prince Harry has alleged that The Sun newspaper paid a private investigator to find out Meghan Markle's social security number when they had first started their relationship.

The allegation was part of the witness statement filed by the duke in a preliminary hearing against News Group Newspapers (NGN), in which he also alleged that Prince William made a secret deal with the publishers to privately settle his own phone hacking claim and to avoid the possibility of appearing as a witness in a legal case.

Harry's witness statement said: "The Sun (through its journalist, James Beal, who I now know regularly stalked me in the UK and abroad to places such as Jamaica) instructed an American private investigator, Danno Hanks (who has admitted to regularly carrying out work for NGN over a number of years), to obtain private information in the form of a report about my new relationship with Meghan.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white) Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend The Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House on March 05, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
Harry and Meghan have been clear that press scrutiny and the leaking of stories against them are amongst the reasons they stepped back as working royals in 2020. (Getty Images)

"This information, which included highly sensitive information such as her social security number (and other details about her and her family), was unlawfully obtained by Mr Hanks in the full knowledge of the Editors of The Sun."

Harry said that this meant The Sun obtained private information, which could be seen in two articles, "such as my and/or Meghan’s call records (to establish how many texts I had sent her), flight details and so on."

This means, Harry claims, that "unlawful activity isn’t as ‘historic’ as NGN claims" and that the company has not changed since the phone hacking scandal saw the closure of the News of the World.

NGN told Yahoo News in a statement: "In 2012, an unreserved apology was made to all of those who had brought cases against the News of the World for voicemail interception. Since then, NGN has been paying financial damages to those with claims.

"There are a number of disputed claims still going through the civil courts some of which seek to involve The Sun. The Sun does not accept liability or make any admissions to the allegations.

"As we reach the tail end of litigation, NGN is drawing a line under disputed matters, some of which date back more than 20 years ago.

ITV TO SHOW UK EXCLUSIVE PRINCE HARRY INTERVIEW WITH TOM BRADBY PRODUCED BY ITN PRODUCTIONS

 
HARRY: THE INTERVIEW
Sunday January 8th at 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX 

Pictured: (l-r) Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex interviewed by Tom Bradby in California.

ITV will show an exclusive interview with Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, next Sunday in which he will talk in-depth to Tom Bradby, journalist and ITV News at Ten presenter, covering a range of subjects including his personal relationships, never-before-heard details surrounding the death of his mother, Diana, and a look ahead at his future. 

The 90 minute programme, produced by ITN Productions for ITV, will be broadcast two days before Prince Harry’s autobiography ‘Spare’ is published on 10 January, by Transworld.

The book has been billed by publisher Penguin Random House as “a landmark publication full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief”.

Filmed in California, where Harry now lives, Harry: The Interview, sees the Prince go into unprecedented depth and detail on life in and out of the Royal Family.

Speaking to Tom Bradby, who he has known for more than 20 years, Prince Harry shares his personal story, in his own words.

Michael Jermey, ITV Director of News and Current Affairs, said: “It is extremely rare for a member of the Royal Family to speak so openly about their experience at the heart of the institution. 

“Tom Bradby’s interview with Prince Harry will be a programme that everyone with an informed opinion on the monarchy should want to watch.
During his promotional tour for his memoir Spare, Harry made clear how much the relationships with his brother and father had broken down. (ITV)

"All of these matters are historical, dating back to a period between 1996 and 2012."

Harry's witness statement was filed as part of a preliminary hearing that began on 25 April, in which the publishers of The Sun tried to get a case brought against them by Prince Harry and other claimants including Hugh Grant thrown out.

The case is part of Harry’s long-term campaign to reform the British media in what he has previously called his “life’s work”.

Harry has made claims about deals made between the palace and the Murdoch owned paper before, but this witness statement saw him go into more detail.

He went as far as to say that the late Queen Elizabeth supported his legal action against NGN, but that his father Charles (then Prince of Wales) undermined their efforts.

In March, court filings in another claim he brought against the publishers of the Daily Mail – Associated Newspapers – alleged that royals had made a deal not to sue the paper over the phone hacking scandal.

Harry claimed this was because starting litigation could mean a member of the Royal Family ending up in the witness box which “could open up a can of worms”.

The witness statement also saw Harry say that “the whole country is doomed” if Associated Newspapers “can successfully evade justice”.

RETRANSMITTED CORRECTING CAPTION Baroness Doreen Lawrence leaves the Royal Courts Of Justice, central London, following a hearing claim over allegations of unlawful information gathering brought against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) by seven people - the Duke of Sussex, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Sir Elton John, David Furnish, Liz Hurley, Sadie Frost and Sir Simon Hughes. Picture date: Monday March 27, 2023.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence, pictured here leaving the Royal Courts Of Justice, is one of the other high profile claimants taking on ANL alongside Prince Harry. (PA)

The duke also said in his statement: “The evidence I have seen shows that Associated’s journalists are criminals with journalistic powers”.

Associated Newspapers have called the claims “stale” and “preposterous smears”.

His case against The Sun was first filed in 2019 and is one of three that are currently ongoing against the British media for invasions of privacy.

A trial date is set for May in Harry’s case against Mirror Group Newspapers and will see him give evidence in person against the publisher’s alleged unlawful information gathering, which the company has denied.

The trial is expected to last six to seven weeks and will be the second appearance of Prince Harry in a British courtroom this year, as he also made a surprise appearance at the recent preliminary hearing against ANL.

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