Prince Harry begins testifying at trial over newspaper hacking allegations

Prince Harry begins testifying at trial over newspaper hacking allegations

Prince Harry began giving evidence at London's High Court on Tuesday in his lawsuit against a tabloid publisher whose titles he accuses of phone-hacking and other unlawful activities, the first senior royal to do so in more than a century.

Harry, the fifth-in-line to the throne, briefly smiled as he passed the phalanx of waiting photographers and camera crews when he arrived at the modern Rolls Building in central London ahead of the very rare court appearance by a royal.

Harry and more than 100 others are suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, over allegations of widespread wrongdoing between 1991 and 2011.

The younger son of King Charles will face hours of cross-examination in the witness box from Andrew Green, MGN's lawyer, over 33 newspaper articles he says were based on information that had been unlawfully obtained. Green has said he plans to question Harry for about a day and a half.

Harry is the first British royal to give evidence in 130 years. An ancestor, the future King Edward VII, appeared as a witness in a trial over a gambling scandal in 1891.

Not a vendetta, Harry's lawyer says

The MGN trial began last month, with lawyers for Harry and the other claimants seeking to prove that unlawful information gathering was carried out with the knowledge and approval of senior editors and executives.

Harry is one of four test cases, and his specific allegations form the focus of the first three days of this week.

Harry did not appear on Monday, having only left the United States, where he now lives with his American wife Meghan, the previous evening as it was his daughter Lilibet's birthday on Sunday. The judge, Timothy Fancourt, said he was surprised at his absence.

Harry's lawyer David Sherborne said on Monday that the prince had been the subject of thousands of MGN stories since he was a young boy, and as such was a regular target of unlawful behaviour, with his late mother, Princess Diana, also a victim of hacking.

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Harry wanted to focus attention on the unlawful activities, but not because he has a "vendetta" against the press, Sherborne said.

MGN, now owned by Reach, did apologize at the start of the trial after admitting the Sunday People had unlawfully sought information about Harry on one occasion, and has previously admitted its titles were involved in phone-hacking, settling more than 600 claims.

But Green, MGN's lawyer, said there was no evidence that Harry had ever been the victim of phone-hacking, let alone habitually as he claimed, and rejected he had been the victim of any further unlawful actions.

Buckingham Palace is likely to feature prominently in Harry's cross-examination, with MGN arguing that some of the personal information involved had come from senior royal aides, including from one of his father's former top officials.

In his memoir Spare, Netflix documentary series and other TV interviews, the prince has repeatedly accused his family and their aides of colluding with tabloids to enhance their reputations at his expense.

The palace has not commented on those accusations.