Prince Harry’s Testimony: a gateway into tabloid journalism
Charlie Gershinson explores the right to privacy in Prince Harry’s legal battle against the Mirror Group for alleged phone hacking crimes.
Prince Harry’s recent brief sojourn back to the UK to participate as a witness in his civil case against Mirror Group Newspapers marked another breakthrough moment in a high-profile and protracted legal battle over phone hacking claims (which the Mirror Group denies).
Harry, along with other celebrities such as television presenter Ian Wright, Girls Aloud star Cheryl Cole, and the estate of late singer George Michael, is alleging that the Mirror Group are responsible for a campaign of phone hacking to unlawfully gather information over several years. Harry alleges that this campaign targeted him from 1996 to 2011.
The case itself originates from “barrister to the stars” David Sherborne who first approached Harry and his wife Meghan Markle about the phone hacking cases against the Mirror Group, Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers and the Mail newspapers. Sherborne is most well-known for his successfully prosecuted case in 2015 against the Mirror Group. This led to £1.2 million being paid out to eight victims of phone hacking, an admission and an apology followed by out-of-court settlements over the years amounting to £100 million.
This led to £1.2 million being paid out to eight victims of phone hacking, an admission and an apology followed by out-of-court settlements over the years amounting to £100 million.
However, the Mirror Group’s argument – led by Andrew Green KC – rested on the 2015 case (dubbed the “Gulati Judgement” after Coronation Street star Shobna Gulati who was found to be a victim of phone hacking” provided no precedent for Prince Harry’s case) providing no precedent or the allegations Harry was bringing to the court. Instead, Green argued that the news stories about Prince Harry which allegedly used information from phone hacking instead came from legitimate sources like press briefings from Buckingham Palace and that Harry could not have felt distressed by the stories as he had never directly read them.
This case only provides a snapshot of the long-rolling scandal over tabloid culture which started over a decade when it was whistle-blowers working for the Murdoch-controlled News of the World revealed that journalists had been illegally accessing the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. A few days later, Murdoch shuttered the 168-year-old tabloid. In the aftermath, attempts to limit the damage to just a few ‘bad apples’ revealed a press culture where the ends of getting an exclusive from another newspaper justified the morally dubious means. While phone hacking remains the headline to this story of tabloid misadventures, it helps to conceal other duplicitous methods previously used by tabloid journalists like fraud.
This case only provides a snapshot of the long-rolling scandal over tabloid culture.
While Prince Harry’s recent testimony provides a snapshot of the battle between legally culpable newspapers and their victims, it is likely not this story’s last chapter. With the number of celebrities, celebrities’ estates and others who have been found victims in the past, there may be more found in the future who, like Harry and his fellow litigants, may not want to settle out of court.