Prince Harry's evidence ramps up hostilities with British press

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex's lawsuit against a newspaper group, in London

By Sam Tobin and Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Harry's five-hour appearance and his no-holds-barred assault on the tabloid press at London's High Court on Tuesday will generate global headlines, but is unlikely to be make or break for the royal's case against the publisher he is suing.

As he arrived at the High Court in London he briefly smiled at the ranks of media massed outside.

But, once inside, his well-documented hatred of the tabloids was made clear as King Charles' younger son attacked the "vile" behaviour by some journalists as he became the first senior British royal to give evidence in court in over 130 years.

It was not just the press that Harry criticised, breaking royal protocol on being non-political. He also described the government as being at "rock bottom".

"Democracy fails when your press fails to scrutinise and hold the government accountable, and instead chooses to get into bed with them so they can ensure the status quo," he wrote in his witness statement.

Initially appearing slightly apprehensive, Harry slowly seemed to relax under questioning from Andrew Green, the lawyer representing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), who began with an apology to the prince for the one instance in which MGN has admitted unlawful information gathering.

Harry's evidence repeatedly referred to his suspicion that unlawful information gathering had been used to produce stories on him, in the face of suggestions he could not know for sure.

Harry even managed to crack a couple of jokes, comparing his wrangling with bundles of documents to a "work-out" and saying with a smile when told that information had previously been reported in the press: "Doesn't necessarily mean it's true."


Green alternated between politeness and empathy – at one point telling Harry that "everybody I'm sure has enormous sympathy with the extraordinary degree of press intrusion" he had suffered – and more direct, combative questioning.

At one point he asked: "Are you not, Prince Harry, in the realms of total speculation?"

Harry repeatedly said the journalist who wrote the articles should be asked where information had been obtained.

Jane Kerr, the Daily Mirror's former royal editor whose byline appears on 10 of the 33 articles which are being considered by the court, is due to give evidence on Wednesday.

Green, going through the 33 articles at the trial one-by-one, suggested information could have come from a member of the public or even Buckingham Palace itself.

The lawyer also showed how information in some of the articles had already been published by other newspapers days before, suggesting unlawful information gathering was unlikely.

Harry said he thought the MGN articles were still the product of unlawful information gathering as journalists – who "would be under a huge amount of pressure to deliver the goods" – would have used unlawful methods to follow up the stories.

The prince will return to court on Wednesday, where he will face another two-and-a-half hours of cross-examination from Green before some questions from his own lawyer, David Sherborne.

Harry's evidence will then feature heavily in closing submissions at the end of the month, when Sherborne and Green are likely to debate the credibility of his account.

But, ultimately, it will be for the judge to decide whether Harry's evidence proves on the balance of probabilities that he was the victim of hacking and unlawful information gathering.

The judge told Prince Harry he cannot discuss his evidence with anyone overnight, to which the Prince joked: "Not my children, my lord? I may well be FaceTiming them."

(Reporting by Sam Tobin and Michael Holden; Editing by Nick Macfie)