A courteous, but implacable face-to-face: Prince Harry was confronted for five hours on Tuesday with a chiseled interrogation, led by the lawyer for the publisher of a British tabloid whom he accuses of collecting illegal information in the UK courts.
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Wearing a dark suit, the youngest son of King Charles III takes his place in the witness box in a room inside a modern High Court building in London.
Once the oath has been taken, followed by a word from his lawyer who wants to ensure that his client consents to being called Prince Harry, this extraordinary witness – no member of the royal family had not testified in court for more than a century – finds himself handed over to the lawyer of the one he accuses.
Because, as required by the procedure at this stage of this civil trial, it is the lawyer for the party being prosecuted who leads the dance. Andrew Green begins by verbally presenting the “apologies” of the MGN press group, which publishes the Daily Mirror as well as its Sunday and people editions. “It should never have happened and it will never happen again,” insists the lawyer.
Apologies limited to the facts recognized by the press group, which, on the other hand, rejects the accusations of hacking telephone messages.
On the one hand, a prince who says he is traumatized by the repeated intrusions of the press that have marked his life. On the other, a lawyer who knows his case inside out and is determined that his client only takes responsibility for his own deviations, but no more.
In detail, Andrew Green questions Prince Harry on the causal link that can be established between such an article and his grievances, seeks to know if he had read them, how he had known about them, many of them dating from a time when he was a child or a teenager.
“I don’t remember”, “it was 20 years ago”, “maybe but I’m not sure”, replies Prince Harry, who complains about the intrusions of newspapers he described as ruthless.
“I have known the hostility of the press since I was born,” he says, returning to the state of paranoia in which these intrusions have plunged him.
When friends become suspects, “your circle starts to narrow,” says Harry.
The lawyer asks Harry to explain himself about an expression used in his written testimony, in particular to know if the “blood on the hands” that according to him the journalists have relates to a precise article.
“Some of the editors and journalists who are responsible for causing so much suffering, upheaval and in some cases, to speak personally, death,” Harry replied, in a lucid allusion to his mother Diana, who died in 1997 in a car accident in Paris, chased by paparazzi.
The “blood on the hands” is directed “more broadly against the press”, he added, specifying that he had not named any journalists in this paragraph.
Asked about a 2002 article in the now-defunct tabloid News Of The World claiming, wrongly according to Harry, that he had smoked cannabis, the prince lashed out at a member of the royal household who cooperated in this article.
Asked about the public interest of this affair, Harry answered, scathingly: “there is a difference between the public interest and what interests the public”.
The lawyer’s precise questions, which on Tuesday made it possible to sweep away some twenty of the 33 disputed articles, make it possible to trace significant episodes in his life. From that fancy dress party where he appeared in Nazi garb to his relationship with his former girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, and their vacation in Mozambique.
On many occasions, the lawyer points out that such and such information was in the public domain long before being in the columns of the titles of the MGN group, cooks Harry on the elements which he has to support his accusations.
“Everyone has a lot of sympathy for the intrusions you suffered during your life,” lawyer Andrew Green said, “but that doesn’t mean it’s the result of illegal activity.”
Prince Harry’s interrogation continues Wednesday morning.