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MGN apologises to Prince Harry over phone hacking as trial begins

Prince Harry pictured in March
Prince Harry pictured in March Copyright Copyright 2023 The AP
Copyright Copyright 2023 The AP
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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MGN, who represent The Mirror newspaper, have apologised to Britain's Prince Harry over phone hacking claims as a high-profile case begins in London.

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Prince Harry has received an apology from the publishers of UK newspaper The Mirror, who have admitted to using unlawful methods to gather information in the 2000s.

Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) have reached out to the British prince as a trial over alleged phone hacking begins at the High Court in London.

MGN released a statement saying they "unreservedly apologise" for their practices used to obtain information on Prince Harry and other high profile figures, adding that the royal’s legal challenge “warrants compensation” and that they would never again repeat the unlawful behaviour.

Although Prince Harry flew back to his adopted home of California shortly after his father’s coronation on Saturday, he’s expected to return to give evidence next month, during a trial expected to run for six or seven weeks. 

He will be the first senior royal since the 19th century to give evidence in a courtroom.

Prince Harry’s lawyer David Sherborne claimed in his opening statement that the scale and extent of the illegal methods used were part of the newspaper’s ‘modus operandi’ in the 2000s and that almost every journalist in the organisation, including then-editor Piers Morgan, used them as part of their normal work process. He also alleges that MGN executives knew about widespread phone hacking at The Mirror but failed to act.

Lawyers from the royal’s team told the court that Harry was subjected to the "most intrusive methods of obtaining personal information".

In rebuttal, Andrew Green KC, who’s representing MGN, claims the publisher will continue to deny allegations of voicemail interception in the cases being examined during the trial, also alleging that some of the challenges brought have passed the legal time limit, in line with the UK’s statute of limitations laws.

The case follows a previous hearing which was told that The Mirror published 148 articles between 1996 and 2010 including information which was allegedly obtained through methods including phone hacking.

The estate of late singer George Michael and ‘Royle Family’ actor Ricky Tomlinson have also brought claims against MGN and a number of so-called ‘test cases’ - including Harry's - have been selected to go to trial from the wide group of claimants.

MGN has previously settled a number of claims, paying out around £100 million (approximately €115 million) in settlements and legal fees after being found culpable of phone hacking offences at its titles as well as stories secured through other unlawful means.

Copyright 2022
Meghan and Harry at an event in London in June 2022Copyright 2022

Prince Harry has long been an outspoken critic of the tabloid press and is currently bringing a separate libel claim against Associated Newspapers Limited, the publisher of The Daily Mail, over an article written about his security arrangements with the Home Office.

Last year, the Mail on Sunday paid Harry’s wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, just £1 (or around €1.15) in damages for allegedly invading her privacy by publishing a private letter she had sent to her father. The nominal amount was paid after the newspaper and its sister website MailOnline accepted defeat in the long-running case and the outlet also paid an unspecified sum for the separate case of infringing the Duchess’ copyright by publishing the letter.

On top of the £100 million MGN has already paid out to victims, the company has also set aside a further £50 million (about €57 million) to deal with future accusations, including Prince Harry’s.

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