Prince Harry hearing: Private investigator boasted he could 'get Queen's medical records', court hears
A former police officer has claimed a private investigator who allegedly hacked phones for the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday boasted he could access the Queen’s medical records.
In a witness statement released this week as part of Prince Harry's privacy claim against the publisher of the Daily Mail, Derek Haslam claims a private investigator named Jonathan Rees boasted about a range of criminal activities, including access private information about the Queen.
Haslam is a retired police officer and undercover operative who says he infiltrated Rees's private investigator's firm, Southern Investigations, for the Metropolitan Police between 1997 and 2006.
Haslam's signed statement, which has been seen by Yahoo, says: “I heard Rees boast about the unlawful work he did for the Mail newspapers. This involved phone tapping (meaning the interception of live telephone calls), computer and phone hacking, bribing police officers and a whole range of other unlawful activities, including burglaries to order.
“Rees liked to boast about the information he could get. 'We can get the Queen's medical records,' he once said.
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“From what I saw of... his operations I firmly believed that nothing in terms of private information was beyond Rees and Southern Investigations’ reach using illegal means.”
Haslam goes on to say that Rees “frequently” admitted to working for the papers.
According to a BBC report from 2011, Rees said at the time he never sold or provided information obtained illegally to any journalist.
The claims emerged amid accusations by Prince Harry and other high-profile individuals that Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) have “concealed wrongdoing” over the alleged unlawful gathering of their private information.
ANL, which denies the allegations, says a judge should rule in its favour without a trial because the legal challenges against it are brought “far too late”.
The publisher’s lawyers have argued the group, which includes Sir Elton John, his husband David Furnish and Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, could have used “reasonable diligence” to discover they had a potential “worthwhile” claim earlier.
Lawyers for those bringing legal action say they were “thrown off the scent” and not aware of being targeted, having believed “categorical denials” from ANL over involvement in unlawful activity.
Haslam’s witness statement was used in the final of a four-day preliminary hearing in which ANL’s lawyers argued to secure a summary judgment – which would mean the claims don’t go to trial.
Prince Harry said in his witness statement for the claim that he believed if the “most influential newspaper company can successfully evade justice, then in my opinion the whole country is doomed.”
He also accused the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s journalists of being “criminals with journalistic powers which should concern every single one of us” and that he was “deeply concerned by the unchecked power, influence and criminality of Associated.”
ANL said in a statement they deny the claims which are "unsubstantiated and highly defamatory [and] based on no credible evidence".
ANL’s legal team has argued two main points to get Harry and the other claimants' case thrown out.
Firstly, they say that some of the evidence the claim relies upon is restricted material which they allege was leaked from the Leveson Inquiry.
Public inquiries – such as Leveson – usually seek to make as much evidence available to the public as possible, but some evidence is designated as restricted to ensure candour from the participants.
Harry's legal team refutes this and says the burden is on ANL to prove it was leaked.
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ANL's second argument is that the claimants' have passed the six-year statute of limitation for this type of invasion of privacy allegation, so any case is too late.
The last two days of the hearing saw both sides argue on this point, with ANL claiming that because certain articles where private information of the claimants were misused were published some years ago, means the “fact that the defendant was misusing the private information was not concealed”.
The claimants' legal team pushed back on this and used witness statements – including Haslam’s – to show that the claimants gained new information after the time limit had passed in 2016, which led them to realise they had a “worthwhile” claim rather than “speculative” one.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Justice Nicklin said he would not be handing down a judgment at this stage and would only circulate a draft judgment to counsel – because of the high-profile nature of the case, they will have to make representations to him to even share it with their clients.
This article was updated on 31 March