LONDON — Prince Harry’s highly anticipated showdown against the publisher of the Daily Mirror kicked off Monday, June 5, 2023, without him present in court — and the judge was not happy.
Harry’s lawyer said the Duke of Sussex would be unavailable to testify following opening statements because he’d taken a flight from Los Angeles after the birthday of his two-year-old daughter, Lilibet, on Sunday.
“I’m a little surprised,” Justice Timothy Fancourt said, noting he had directed Harry to be in court for the first day of his case.
Mirror Group Newspaper’s lawyer, Andrew Green, said he was “deeply troubled” by Harry’s absence on the trial’s opening day.
The case against Mirror Group is the first of the prince’s several lawsuits against the media to go to trial, and one of three alleging tabloid publishers unlawfully snooped on him in their cutthroat competition for scoops on the royal family.
Harry’s lawyer, David Sherborne, said phone hacking and forms of unlawful information gathering were carried out on such a widespread scale, it was implausible the publisher’s newspapers used a private investigator to dig up dirt on the prince only once, which is what they have admitted.
“The ends justify the means for the defendant,” Sherborne said.
Stories about Harry were big sellers for the newspapers, and some 2,500 articles had covered all facets of his life -- from his illnesses at school to ups and downs with girlfriends, Sherborne said.
“There was no time in his life when he was safe from these activities,” Sherborne said. “Nothing was sacrosanct or out of bounds.”
Mirror Group has said it used documents, public statements and sources to legally report on the prince.
But Sherborne said it was not hard to infer that Mirror journalists used the same techniques on Harry — eavesdropping on voicemails and hiring private eyes to snoop — as they did on others.
Harry had been scheduled to testify Tuesday, June 6, but his lawyer was told last week the duke should attend Monday’s proceedings in London’s High Court in case the opening statements concluded before the end of the day.
When he enters the witness box, Harry, 38, will be the first member of the British royal family in more than a century to testify in court. He is expected to describe his anguish and anger over being hounded by the media throughout his life, and its impact on those around him.
He has blamed paparazzi for causing the car crash that killed his mother, Princess Diana, and said harassment and intrusion by the UK press, including allegedly racist articles, led him and his wife, Meghan, to flee to the U.S. in 2020 and leave royal life behind. (Ap)
READY TO TESTIFY. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, leaves after a service of thanksgiving for the reign of Queen Elizabeth II at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, Friday, June 3, 2022. The Duke of Sussex is scheduled to testify in the High Court after his lawyer presents opening statements Monday, June 5, 2023, in his case alleging phone hacking. / AP
June 05, 2023
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