What evidence is Prince Harry giving in court? Is he the first British Royal to appear as witness?
The son of King Charles III is making a historic appearance in the High Court, London, in his ongoing lawsuit against the Mirror Group Newspapers.
Prince Harry, the younger son of King Charles, and husband of Meghan Markle, is set to make history as he becomes the first British royal to appear in the witness box since the end of the 19th century. This week, he will testify at the High Court in London as part of his lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), publisher of the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, and the Sunday People tabloids.
The trial involves more than 100 individuals who are suing MGN, accusing them of widespread unlawful activities that occurred between 1991 and 2011.
The claimants, including actors, sports stars, celebrities, and people with connections to high-profile figures, allege that MGN’s journalists or private investigators engaged in phone-hacking on an “industrial scale” and obtained private details through deception and other illicit means. The claimants’ lawyers argue that senior editors and executives were aware of and approved these behaviors. However, MGN contests these claims, denying that senior figures had any knowledge of wrongdoing. The media group also argues that some of the lawsuits were filed too late.
In Prince Harry’s case, he was selected as one of the four test cases for the trial. The proceedings began on May 10, and he is scheduled to give evidence during a three-day period starting this week.
Prince Harry’s accusations
Prince Harry alleges that 140 stories published by MGN were the result of phone-hacking or other unlawful behaviour. However, the trial is only focusing on 33 of these stories. His lawyers claim that the intrusion into his privacy led to the breakdown of his relationship with his long-term girlfriend, Chelsy Davy.
During the initial stages of the trial, MGN released documents acknowledging that private investigators had been instructed to unlawfully gather information about three individuals involved in the test cases, including Prince Harry himself. MGN unreservedly apologised for these actions and stated that Prince Harry is entitled to compensation. However, the publisher has rejected his other claims and argues that some of the information had been obtained through a former senior aide working for his father.
Why is Prince Harry a witness?
Prince Harry’s involvement as a witness in this trial stems from his pursuit of justice and accountability in relation to the media. The MGN case is one of four ongoing lawsuits he has filed against British newspapers. He is also suing Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of the Sun tabloid, over allegations of phone-hacking and other unlawful acts. NGN denies any wrongdoing and is seeking to have Prince Harry’s case dismissed.
Furthermore, Prince Harry, along with singer Elton John and five others, is suing Associated Newspapers (ANL), publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, for phone-hacking and breaches of privacy. ANL denies engaging in any unlawful activities. In a statement as part of the NGN case, Prince Harry emphasized that this legal action goes beyond phone hacking, asserting that it is about the accountability of power. He believes that the press should not be influenced by “criminals masquerading as journalists.”
Which British Royals have appeared in court?
Prince Harry’s upcoming appearance in court as a witness makes him the first senior British royal to testify since the 1890s. However, it is worth examining the historical instances of royals appearing in court.
The last time a senior British royal gave evidence in court was in 1891 when Edward VII, before becoming king, was a witness in a slander trial related to a card game. He had previously been in the witness box in 1870 when he testified in a divorce case, where he was falsely accused of being the lover of a British lawmaker’s wife.
In 1910, George V, Edward VII’s son, was accused of bigamy by a republican newspaper soon after ascending to the throne. Although he did not give evidence personally, George provided a written statement denying the allegations. The author of the article was subsequently sentenced to one year in prison for libel.
Another notable royal case involved Charles I, who was put on trial for treason in 1649 following the conclusion of the English Civil War. He refused to recognise the court’s authority and was found guilty, leading to his execution.
In recent times, Prince Andrew, Prince Harry’s uncle, faced a lawsuit in the United States in 2021 filed by Virginia Giuffre, who accused him of sexually abusing her as a teenager. The case primarily focused on Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstein, a financier and convicted sex offender. Prince Andrew settled the case without admitting any wrongdoing and did not appear in court. He has not faced any criminal charges.
Princess Anne, the Princess Royal and the only daughter of the late Queen Elizabeth, has also had legal encounters. In 2001, she pleaded guilty to speeding and was fined £400, receiving five penalty points on her driving license. The following year, she became the first British royal in 350 years to be convicted of a criminal offense. She pleaded guilty to failing to stop one of her dogs from biting two children.
What next for Prince Harry?
Prince Harry’s appearance as a witness in the current trial against Mirror Group Newspapers is a significant moment, highlighting the evolving relationship between the royal family and the media.
As the legal proceedings unfold, the court will assess the evidence presented by Harry and others involved in the case, aiming to determine the truth behind the allegations of unlawful practices and breaches of privacy. He is expected to fly back to the US to return to his family following Wednesday’s requirements.