The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, has been awarded £140,600 ($179,000) by the UK High Court in a landmark ruling against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for extensive phone hacking activities. This case highlights significant issues regarding privacy and journalistic ethics in the UK.
Court Ruling and Unlawful Practices
Justice Fancourt found that MGN used illegal methods, such as hacking voicemail messages and employing private investigators, to gather information for 15 stories published about Prince Harry.
These practices were used extensively from 2006 to 2011. Out of the 33 articles submitted for consideration in the case, the judge determined that the claims related to the remaining 18 did not withstand scrutiny, as phone hacking was not the sole journalistic tool employed during that period.
Prince Harry, in a statement read by his lawyer David Sherborne, hailed the ruling as “a great day for truth, as well as accountability”. He emphasized that the court's decision confirmed the unlawful activities of MGN across its three newspaper titles – The Mirror, The Sunday Mirror, and The People – over more than a decade.
Prince Harry's Call for Action and Press Integrity
In his response to the judgment, Prince Harry urged the financial regulator, the Metropolitan Police, and prosecuting authorities to investigate and consider charges against the company and those who broke the law.
He emphasized the need for a “free and honest press” in Great Britain and globally, stating, “anything else is poisoning the well of a profession we all depend on”. The prince described the ruling as both vindicating and affirming, likening his pursuit of justice to “slaying dragons” and acknowledging the risks involved in such a fight for a free and honest press.
He reiterated his commitment to this mission despite the challenges. The court's summary noted that while MGN's use of phone hacking began in 1996, it was still extensive from 2006 to 2011, though Prince Harry's phone was only modestly hacked.
MGN, responding to the judgment, expressed its readiness to move forward from these past events and offered an unreserved apology for the historical wrongdoing, acknowledging full responsibility and compensation. Prince Harry's case marks a significant moment in royal history, as he became the first senior member of the British royal family to give evidence on a witness stand in over 130 years when he appeared in court in June.