Prince Harry’s trial against Mirror Group Newspapers is nearly complete, with closing submissions from both sides to be heard next week. The trial saw Harry give evidence in court over two days – the first member of the Royal Family to do so in over a century.
Harry – and three other claimants – are having their claims against the publishing company tested in a trial due to last nearly two months. They accuse MGN of unlawfully gathering information about them by using private investigators to ‘blag’ their confidential information and by hacking their phones.
Piers Morgan has been mentioned multiple times in the trial so far, with allegations – that he unequivocally denies – that he knew about unlawful information gathering during his tenure as editor at the Daily Mirror.
Morgan has been a long-standing and very vocal critic of the Sussexes, and recently said he wished Harry "luck with his privacy campaign... and look forward to reading about it in his next book".
However, on Tuesday, the judge presiding over the trial asked why the former newspaper editor has not appeared to give evidence in this case.
Mr Justice Fancourt queried whether more people involved in the allegations "could and should have given evidence", and included Morgan in the people he listed.
"Relatively recently [Morgan] had a lot to say about this matter outside of court,” Fancourt said about Morgan and Neil Wallis, who used to be an editor of The People, another MGN title.
In 2015, the publishing company was found to have a “widespread culture of phone-hacking from journalists up to editors” and that the practice was “institutionalised and long standing” in a similar claim.
MGN has said of the current trial that it has apologised where "historical wrongdoings" had taken place, adding: "But we will vigorously defend against allegations of wrongdoing where our journalists acted lawfully.
Yahoo News runs through the key times Morgan has been mentioned so far the trial.
Prince Harry ‘barrage of personal attacks’ from Morgan ‘retaliation’ for legal action
In his witness statement, Prince Harry alleged that Morgan has attacked him and Meghan as retaliation for the claim he has brought.
“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, who was the Editor of the Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004, 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," he wrote.
Harry also alleged that Morgan and the journalists in his employ hacked his late mother Diana’s voicemails, to find out information about her friendship with Michael Barrymore.
“The thought of Piers Morgan and his band of journalists earwigging into my mother’s private and sensitive messages (in the same way as they have me) and then having given her a 'nightmare time' three months prior to her death in Paris, makes me feel physically sick and even more determined to hold those responsible, including Mr Morgan, accountable for their vile and entirely unjustified behaviour.”
Piers Morgan ‘lies at the heart’ of the trial
In his opening speech, David Sherborne – the lawyer representing Harry and the other claimants — claimed that Morgan “lies right at the heart of this in a number of ways” due to the fact that he was a “hands-on editor [and] very closely connected with the board”.
Equally, Sherborne alleged: “We have the direct involvement of Mr Morgan in a number of these incidents and his knowledge of voicemail interception”.
Morgan has denied these claims.
Morgan 'injected' information into royal stories
Jane Kerr, a former royal reporter for the Daily Mirror, said that Morgan as her editor "engaged with the Palace press offices and would occasionally direct or inject information into a story".
Asked about quotes in an article alleging drug use by Prince Harry when he was a teenager, Kerr said: "I can't say for sure where I got them from, I can't remember – it's possible Piers gave them to me, it's possible the Palace. I don't remember."
Morgan accused of explaining how to hack a phone
Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, formerly director of strategic communications for Tony Blair, claimed in his witness statement that Morgan explained to him how to intercept someone’s voicemails over a meal in 2002 and that this is how the Daily Mirror obtained a story about Ulrika Jonsson and Sven Goran-Eriksson.
“When I worked at The Guardian, I attended the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool in September 2002. I recall going out for a Chinese meal with Piers Morgan. I have a very clear recollection of our discussions during this meal.
“I remember that during the meal, I asked Piers Morgan how The Mirror had obtained the story about the affair between the England football manager Sven Goran-Eriksson and the television presenter Ulrika Jonsson. Mr Morgan responded to my question by initially asking me which network provider I used for my mobile phone.
“I told him which network I was on and Mr Morgan told me the default PIN for that network.
“He then explained that the default PIN numbers were well known and rarely changed, which is how mobile phone messages could be accessed remotely using the default PIN number. He said to me, 'That was how we got the story on Sven and Ulrika', with a smile, or words to that effect.”
Morgan tried to ‘destablise’ Labour government
Alastair Campbell alleged in his witness statement that confidential financial information between he and his wife was unlawfully gathered by Mirror Group employees.
He further claimed that having read Morgan’s 2004 memoir The Insider that he “can now see that Mr Morgan does not set out truthfully how he obtained the information on Mr Mandelson".
“At the same time that I now know he was commissioning/approving Southern Investigations (through Mr Jones) to break in to my bank account, his book shows that he was seeking to ingratiate himself with the Prime Minister and myself at Downing Street, and pretending to sympathise about what had happened to Peter Mandelson," said Campbell.
“Mr Morgan’s two-faced conduct, in purporting to be a real ally of the Prime Minister and the Labour Government, while all the time, he and his senior team were using illegal means to find stories designed to destabilise that Government, compounds the anger I feel about this, as does the fact that this conduct has been emphatically denied, by Mr Morgan and his colleagues, for so long.
“I find it very hard to believe that any Editor, especially one as hands-on as Mr Morgan, would not have known and demanded to know where the big stories were coming from."
Morgan ‘knew full well’ Queen’s cousin had been victim
In 1999, the Daily Mirror reported that the Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, had a large unauthorised overdraft and was indebted to Coutts Bank to the tune of £2.5m.
Prince Michael’s lawyers complained to both the Mirror and the Press Complaints Commission over the articles – Morgan as editor of the newspaper responded to both of these complaints.
Morgan initially gave a robust defence of the reports about Prince Michael, saying in a letter to Kent’s lawyers: “Further your suggestion that this newspaper, or any of its employees, may have been involved in a breach of the criminal law in investigating the subject matter of these articles is poor and thinly disguised threat that I will not dignify with comment”.
He also said that the source of the articles was an “impeccable” one “who has an intimate knowledge of your clients financial state.”
In court, David Sherborne for Prince Harry and the other claimants called this a “pompous and bombastic approach” and the “legal equivalent of a two fingers letter”.
However, MGN, despite initially backing the articles, ended up settling with the Kents with a payment that was approved by a member of the board, Paul Vickers.
Sherborne argued that the reason for this change of approach was because MGN had realised they couldn’t stand the story up legally, and that materials found in an Metropolitan Police investigation showed a private investigator had been asked to meet MGN lawyers and refused, amongst other records of payments to the PI relating to the Kents.
MGN’s legal team disputed this interpretation of the company’s change of approach, instead arguing the publisher apologised and settled because Coutts themselves had written to the Daily Mirror pointing out inaccuracies in their reporting.
Morgan accused of admitting to seeing James Hewitt’s bank statements
An excerpt of Morgan’s 2005 book, The Insider, was read out in court, on the second day of the trial.
In the excerpt, Morgan writes about bumping into Hewitt – who is best known for his former relationship with the late Princess Diana – who complained to the former Daily Mirror editor of not being paid for something, Morgan quotes himself as replying “yes, you did – I saw your bank statements”.
Sherborne argued this was an admission of unlawful information gathering, because there are no legitimate means of accessing other people’s private financial information.
Morgan and Kylie Minogue
Omid Scobie, royal executive editor who writes a weekly column for Yahoo UK, claimed in his evidence that Morgan was told a story about Kylie Minogue had been sourced by voicemail interception, whilst Scobie was on work experience at the Daily Mirror in spring 2002.
“Piers Morgan, came over to talk with someone (I do not recall who) about a story in the works on Kylie Minogue and her (on-off, at the time) boyfriend James Gooding.
“Mr Morgan was asking how confident they were in the reporting and was told that the information had come from voicemails. I recall being surprised to hear this at the time, which is why it stuck in my mind.”
Ulrika Jonsson’s publicist
A former publicist of Ulrika Jonsson said she initially “held [Morgan] in high regard”, before later being informed she was likely targeted with unlawful information gathering.
“I worked closely with Piers often on difficult and personal stories where the sense of mutual trust was vital. As such, I would never have questioned or suspected the source of his information,” Melanie Cantor wrote in her witness statement.
However, Morgan on more than one occasion knew private information about her client very quickly, and later she discovered that 400 calls were made to her phone by MGN employees.
These calls were sometimes very short, and often in quick succession, which the claimants argue is a sign of voicemail interception."