Harry loses bid to name Murdoch in hacking claim

Prince Harry
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Prince Harry cannot broaden legal action against News Group Newspapers (NGN) to include new allegations against Rupert Murdoch, the High Court has ruled.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Fancourt said the claims about Mr Murdoch's alleged knowledge of unlawful activity at the group added "nothing material" to the case.

Harry and several others are suing NGN - publisher of the Sun and the defunct News of the World - over allegations of phone hacking and unlawful information gathering.

A spokesman for NGN, which denies the allegations, said the court had "thoroughly vindicated" the group's position by refusing permission to introduce "large and significant" amendments to the case.

The Duke of Sussex was further refused permission to push the timeline of the case back to 1994 and 1995, to include allegations involving his late mother, Princess Diana, as the judge said it was "too late".

He was also denied permission to amend the lawsuit to add new allegations that the Sun ordered private investigators to target his then girlfriend – and now wife Meghan – in 2016.

But the duke was granted permission to alter his case to include allegations the papers had tapped his landline phones, and to make further accusations against journalists and private investigators.

Earlier this year, lawyers representing a number of claimants suing NGN claimed that Mr Murdoch knew of unlawful activity as early as 2004 but "turned a blind eye" to the allegations while overseeing a "culture of impunity" at the publisher.

In court documents, a lawyer for the Duke of Sussex argued it could be inferred that Mr Murdoch "was aware of the nature and extent of NGN's wrongdoing" by virtue of his "dominant position" at NGN.

But their request to expand the case was denied, with the judge ruling that allegations against "trophy targets" including Mr Murdoch added "nothing material" to the case.

Prince Harry's lawyers "cannot resist adding more and more detail to the claim, as more and more missing pieces of the jigsaw are found, with a view to having the fullest possible picture to put before the court and be the subject of journalists’ reports and judicial findings," he said.

But "the trial is not an inquiry," he concluded as he denied some of the attempts to expand its scope before the hearing of the claims is expected to begin in January next year.

NGN said: "At a hearing in March 2024, the claimants sought to introduce wide-ranging allegations into their pleadings.

"NGN argued that a number of these were irrelevant to the fair and just determination of claims and had nothing to do with seeking compensation for victims of phone hacking or unlawful information gathering.

"The court in its judgment today has thoroughly vindicated NGN's position and did not give permission to introduce large and significant portions of the amendments."

Prince Harry and other claimants said: "The claimants are pleased that the court has today granted them permission to amend their case in relation to a number of significant issues vigorously opposed by NGN.

"The expanded case will now be determined at trial in January 2025."

The News of the World was shut down in 2011 after widespread allegations of phone hacking. NGN has since settled multiple claims with high-profile figures.