In a significant legal development, Prince Harry has achieved a partial victory in his ongoing court battle against British newspapers, particularly the Mirror Group, as a judge ruled on Friday that extensive phone hacking had taken place within the media organization.
The High Court in London concluded that Prince Harry’s personal cellphone had likely been hacked “to a modest extent.” Justice Timothy Fancourt, presiding over the case, determined that 15 out of the 33 news articles submitted by Prince Harry were a result of accessing his mobile voicemail.
Justice Fancourt asserted that phone hacking was both “widespread and habitual” over an extended period within the Mirror Group. Furthermore, he pointed out that senior managers were not only aware of the practice but also actively engaged in covering it up.
The Duke of Sussex, who is no longer a working royal following his relocation to California with his wife, Meghan, will be awarded £140,600 ($180,000) as a consequence of this partial victory.
Although Prince Harry was not physically present in court for the ruling, his lead attorney, David Sherborne, read a prepared statement outside the court on his behalf. In the statement, Prince Harry expressed that the case had exposed a “systemic practice of unlawful and appalling behavior, followed by cover-ups and destruction of evidence, the shocking scale of which can only be revealed through these proceedings.” He called for criminal charges against the publisher and urged the police and prosecutors to launch an investigation.
In response, Mirror Group Newspapers issued an apology, stating, “Where historical wrongdoing took place, we apologise unreservedly, have taken full responsibility and paid appropriate compensation.”
Prince Harry’s statement, however, claimed that the judgment proved senior editors and company executives, including Piers Morgan, were aware of and involved in illegal activities. He accused them of lying under oath during the Leveson Inquiry, to the Stock Exchange, and to the public.
The judgment explicitly mentioned, “There is compelling evidence that the editors of each newspaper knew very well that VMI [voicemail interception] was being used extensively and habitually and that they were happy to take the benefits of it.”
Piers Morgan, who served as the editor of the Daily Mirror from 1995 to 2004, has consistently denied any knowledge or involvement in illegal phone hacking. Responding to Friday’s judgment, he emphasized that only one article during his tenure might have involved unlawful information gathering, of which he claimed to have zero knowledge. Morgan asserted that all other claims against the Daily Mirror under his leadership had been rejected.