Why are Prince Harry and Elton John in court?

Elton John waves to the waiting media as he leaves the Royal Courts Of Justice in London, Monday, March 27, 2023.
Elton John waves to the waiting media as he leaves the Royal Courts Of Justice in London, Monday, March 27, 2023. Copyright Alberto Pezzali/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Jonny Walfisz with AP
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Pop royalty and actual royalty appeared in a London court for a lawsuit against Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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Why were Prince Harry, Elton John in court this week? 

The spurned British royal and British pop royalty were both surprise attendees as in a case against Associated Newspapers Ltd. for breaking into celebrity homes.

Associated Newspapers Ltd., which publishes The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, is accused of “breaking and entry into private property,” as well as unlawfully hiring private investigators to bug celebrity homes, cars and phones.

The lawsuit at the High Court in London is one of the most high profile against the news publisher, with Elton John’s husband and filmmaker David Furnish, Elizabeth Hurley, Sadie Frost and Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993, also among the plaintiffs.

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Britain's Prince Harry, center right, arrives at the Royal Courts Of Justice, in London, Monday, March 27, 2023.Jordan Pettitt/AP

Among the allegations in court papers were that Associated Newspapers unlawfully obtained the birth certificate of John and Furnish’s child before they had seen the document and illegally gleaned information on Harry’s previous relationship with Chelsy Davy, a jewellery designer from Zimbabwe.

The publisher is also alleged to have hired a private investigator to hack Hurley’s phone, stuck a mini-microphone on a window outside her home and bugged ex-boyfriend Hugh Grant’s car to gather financial information, travel plans and medical information during her pregnancy.

John and Furnish arrived in court after a lunch break and sat in the gallery for part of the afternoon before bowing out. Harry sat near Frost toward the rear of the court during the whole session and occasionally took notes.

“They were the victim of numerous unlawful acts carried out by the defendant, or by those acting on the instructions of its newspapers,” attorney David Sherborne said in a court document.

The allegations date primarily from 1993 to 2011 but also stretch beyond 2018, Sherborne said.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Actress Sadie Frost leaves the Royal Courts Of Justice in London, Monday, March 27, 2023.Kirsty Wigglesworth/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

The publisher denies the allegations and said the claims are too old to be brought and information about the phone hacking scandal was so widely known the subjects could have sued years ago.

He also argued that the suit should be thrown out because it relies on information the newspapers turned over in confidentiality for a 2012 probe into media law breaking.

Britain held a year-long inquiry into press ethics after revelations in 2011 that News of the World tabloid employees eavesdropped on the mobile phone voicemails of celebrities, politicians and a teenage murder victim.

Elizabeth Cook/AP
This court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook shows Prince Harry, second right, in court at the Royal Courts Of Justice, central London, Monday, March 27, 2023.Elizabeth Cook/AP

Owner Rupert Murdoch shut down the newspaper amid a criminal investigation and public uproar. Several journalists were convicted, and Murdoch’s company paid $388 million in settlements to dozens of hacking victims, legal fees and other costs associated with investigations.

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who had resigned and became communications chief to Conservative Party leader Cameron, was convicted of phone hacking and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Justice Matthew Nicklin, who is hearing the current eavesdropping case, is also overseeing a separate libel lawsuit Harry brought against Associated Newspapers over an article about his quest for police protection when he and his family visit the UK.

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