Thursday, May 23, 2024

Prince Harry’s Lawsuit Against Murdoch Tabloids Heads to Trial

HomeEntertainmentPrince Harry's Lawsuit Against Murdoch Tabloids Heads to Trial

LONDON — A British judge has ruled that Prince Harry’s lawsuit against the publisher of The Sun tabloid over alleged unlawful information gathering can proceed to trial next year, rejecting the company’s request to hold a preliminary trial first.

The decision by Judge Timothy Fancourt on Friday sets the stage for a high-profile court battle between the Duke of Sussex and the British media empire of Rupert Murdoch over accusations of illegal newsgathering tactics.

Prince Harry, 39, the younger son of King Charles III, claims he was repeatedly targeted by private investigators working for The Sun, which is owned by Mr. Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN). Dozens of others have joined the suit as co-claimants.

NGN has denied any unlawful conduct. The company had asked for a preliminary trial to first determine if the case should be dismissed on time limit grounds before a full trial occurred. But Judge Fancourt said holding a separate preliminary trial risked increasing overall costs and delaying a final resolution by up to two years.

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“That is unsatisfactory,” the judge wrote in his ruling, clearing the way for the main trial expected to begin in January 2025 unless settled beforehand.

The lawsuit is one of several Prince Harry has filed against British tabloid publishers over phone hacking and other alleged privacy violations by journalists and investigators seeking scoops about the royal family.

This week, the actor Hugh Grant settled a similar claim against NGN over unlawful information gathering, saying he wanted to avoid potentially ruinous legal fees. Though terms were not disclosed, Grant described being offered an “enormous sum” to drop the case.

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Harry previously settled a long-running phone-hacking lawsuit in 2023 against Mirror Group Newspapers, which admitted to using illegal tactics to gather information on the prince and other celebrities.

The legal battles reflect an intensifying war between Britain’s royals and the aggressive London tabloid media over boundaries of press freedom and privacy rights that reaches back decades.

Harry’s wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, also won a privacy case against Associated Newspapers in 2021 after its Mail on Sunday published extracts from a letter she wrote to her estranged father.

The Duke has blamed invasive media tactics, including phone hacking and surveillance, for contributing to the death of his mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi.

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In his memoir “Spare” published in January, Harry excoriated the British tabloids and their hunger for royal scoops, accusing editors and executives of waging “battles against semi-truths, selectively sharing facts or rumours disguised as truths.”

The prince’s lawyers are expected to present evidence at trial from a confidential source that NGN journalists used private investigators for illegal newsgathering techniques like phone hacking and other data breaches.

NGN contends it stopped using unlawful tactics years ago after periodic media scandals over journalistic misbehavior. But Prince Harry believes the firm turned a blind eye to misconduct for too long in relentless pursuit of royal exclusives.

“This kind of treatment was completely dehumanizing,” Harry told CBS News earlier this year, vowing to “remake the relationship between children and family members and the tabloid press.”

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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