Expected a resounding trial against a British tabloid, Prince Harry failed on Monday at the High Court in London, where his lawyer denounced at length the practices of this newspaper, some of which would date back to the early childhood of the king’s son. Charles III.
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Harry’s appearance, now scheduled for Tuesday, will be the first by a member of the royal family to stand in court in more than a century.
Exiled to California with his wife, Meghan, and in trouble with the rest of the British royal family, the Duke of Sussex has initiated a series of legal proceedings against British newspapers.
Harry holds the tabloid press responsible for the death of his mother, Diana, in a car accident in Paris in 1997 while she was being chased by paparazzi, and has also criticized the attitude of the media towards of his wife.
In the ongoing trial, which opened last month at the High Court in London, Harry accuses the Daily Mirror publisher of using unlawful means to gather information, including hacking into voicemails , between 1996 and 2010.
Many journalists waited all day in court to watch for his arrival, expected on Monday for his testimony.
But his lawyer, David Sherborne, said he only flew to Los Angeles on Sunday evening, as he was celebrating the second birthday of his daughter, Lilibet, and would therefore not be there until Tuesday. An announcement which judge Timothy Fancourt said he was “a little surprised”, suggesting tense exchanges with Harry.
It will then be the first appearance of a member of the royal family at the helm since that of the future Edward VII in 1890 for a libel trial.
In 2002, Princess Anne, Harry’s aunt, was fined after a bite from her bull terrier inflicted on two children in Windsor Park. But having pleaded guilty, she had not had to testify.
Outlining the prince’s grievances, his lawyer claimed the media group employed the services of “at least 30 private investigators”.
“Articles about the prince’s private life were selling” and began to multiply from his 11 years, underlined David Sherborne, citing the exclusivity in one about the mononucleosis of Prince Harry when he was small, an argument with his brother, William, or his relationship with a former girlfriend.
His phone “has been hacked on multiple occasions”, argued the lawyer, even after “the tragic death of his mother”.
The Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) group – which in addition to the Daily Mirror publishes its Sunday and people editions – admitted at the start of the trial in its written conclusions “some evidence” of illegal information gathering.
MGN issued an “unreserved” apology and promised it would “never” happen again. The publisher’s lawyer, Andrew Green, on the other hand, rejected the accusations of interception of voice messages and swept aside certain accusations, highlighting the age of the facts.
Prince Harry’s last appearance in the UK dates back to his whirlwind trip for his father’s coronation on May 6. A visit came after weeks of speculation in the wake of the storm sparked in January by the publication of his memoirs, in which he recounts in particular the breakdown of his relationship with his father and his brother, William.
At the end of March, Harry had created a surprise by appearing in the High Court – but in the public – on the occasion of a preliminary hearing against ANL, the publisher of the Daily Mail, accused of the same methods by a series of personalities, including singer Elton John.
Two weeks ago, Prince Harry lost the lawsuit he filed for police protection when he travels to the UK.
In a sign of the intensity of the tension between Harry and the press, Harry and Meghan’s spokesman claimed last month that the couple had been ‘chased’ in New York by ‘very aggressive paparazzi’, reigniting the memory of Diana’s death.