Britain's Prince Harry has followed in his brother's footsteps, filing a suit against Rupert Murdoch’s News Group for multiple unlawful acts allegedly committed on behalf of its UK tabloids.
Harry’s suit accuses Murdoch’s Sun newspaper, and now defunct News of the World, for a spate of unlawful phone hacking activities targeting him during the mid-1990s through 2016.
It’s just one of four cases the Prince has recently filed against British newspapers from his home in California.
During a preliminary hearing for the case held this week (April 25, 2023) in London High Court, Harry was forced to reveal that in 2020, his big brother Prince William was paid a “huge sum of money” by the news outlet as part of a secret settlement for a Royal phone hacking claim.
The younger son of King Charles also disclosed in a 31-page witness statement that the secret deal between Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN) and Buckingham Palace took place so the Royal Family could avoid having to appear in court and testify on the stand.
Prince Harry told the courts that the UK tabloid group had settled William's claim "for a huge sum of money in 2020 [...] without any of the public being told, and seemingly with some favorable deal in return for him going 'quietly,' so to speak."
NGN argued the new claim should be dismissed based on how much time has passed since the original case.
The Prince’s legal team said they had held off filing because of the hushed deal between NGN and Buckingham Palace.
The deal stipulated that no other claims would be filed by the Royal Family until all other outstanding phone-hacking litigation was settled.
Currently, British actor Hugh Grant also has an ongoing phone hacking case, which NGN is also pressing to be dismissed over a statute of limitations.
"In responding to this bid by NGN to prevent his claims going to trial, the claimant has had to make public the details of this secret agreement, as well as the fact that his brother, His Royal Highness, Prince William, has recently settled his claim against NGN behind the scenes," his lawyers said.
NGN lawyers denied any "secret agreement" between Murdoch’s papers and the royal family.
Harry’s statement further accused the family of being in cahoots with the press in an effort to protect their image during the 1990s when Princess Diana was still alive and married to their father.
At the time, details about secret conversations between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles – now Queen Consort – had been published in the press.
"They had a specific long-term strategy to keep the media (including NGN) onside in order to smooth the way for my stepmother (and father) to be accepted by the British public as Queen Consort (and King respectively) when the time came," Harry said.
Meanwhile, NGN has already paid millions of pounds to settle more than a thousand phone-hacking cases resulting from a criminal trial brought against multiple News of the World journalists back in 2014.
The newspaper’s former royal editor Clive Goodman admitted in the mid-2000s he had hacked into the voicemails of both brothers along with William’s wife Kate Middleton.
Goodman said he had hacked the Princess’s phone 155 times, William’s 35, and Harry’s phone nine times.
NGN has consistently denied any unlawful activity involving Sun employees, and its chief editor was acquitted for any wrongdoing at the time.
In 2012, NGN issued a unreserved apology from News of the World for the widespread hacking. The public backlash forced Murdoch to shut the paper down.
In 2017, the late Queen Elizabeth had given her approval for Harry to pursue an official apology from Murdoch, but palace lawyers had told him "nothing could be done as NGN were not in a position to apologize to Her Majesty the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family at that stage.”
The press office for Prince William said it was unable to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.
Harry’s lawyers said the Prince will continue to watch the proceedings from the US via videolink.
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