‘Paranoid’ Prince Harry lost friends over ‘unlawful’ newspaper stories, court hears

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Prince Harry suffered from “suspicion and paranoia” and lost friends because of newspaper articles, a court heard on Monday, as he launched his campaign to reform the media with a surprise appearance in London.

The Duke of Sussex flew 5,500 miles from his new home in California to attend a High Court hearing as the Daily Mail’s publisher bids to throw out claims against its titles, including accusations of phone-hacking.

Also in court were Sir Elton John, Sadie Frost, and Baroness Lawrence, who are among the public figures suing Associated Newspapers for alleged unlawful activity.

It came as:

  • Buckingham Palace said the King won’t meet Harry during his visit

  • Sir Elton’s lawyers said his home phone was “tapped”

  • Lady Lawrence was said to feel a “deep sense of betrayal” after trusting the Daily Mail

  • Harry made his first appearance in London since the Queen’s funeral

The court heard that the allegations against the publisher include the hiring of private investigators to plant listening devices, the recording of private phone conversations, listening to live landline calls, and obtaining medical records.

Associated Newspapers said the claims are “unsubstantiated and highly defamatory, based on no credible evidence”, and wants them dismissed without a trial.

Wearing a black suit and a blue tie, the duke sat at the back of the courtroom, occasionally writing in a small black notebook.

His lawyers claim he was “deprived of important aspects of his teenage years” by the “unlawful actions” of Associated Newspapers.

“In particular, suspicion and paranoia was caused by Associated’s publication of the unlawful articles: friends were lost or cut off as a result and everyone became a ‘suspect’, since he was misled by the way that the articles were written into believing that those close to him were the source of this information being provided to Associated’s newspapers,” they argue in a written submission.

They say the actions of Associated Newspapers amounted to “a major betrayal” of promises made by the media after the death of Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

The hearing before Mr Justice Nicklin is due to conclude on Thursday, but Buckingham Palace said the King would be unable to meet his son because of prior commitments, including an official state visit to Germany on Wednesday.

Harry’s appearance comes nearly three months after he laid bare his troubled relationship with his father and brother in his controversial autobiography, Spare.

Prince Harry makes his unexpected arrival at the Royal Courts Of Justice on Monday (PA)
Prince Harry makes his unexpected arrival at the Royal Courts Of Justice on Monday (PA)

The duke told ITV’s Tom Bradby earlier this year that reforming Britain’s media is now his “life’s work” – a pledge underscored by Monday’s unexpected appearance in court.

Documents filed on behalf of Sir Elton and his husband David Furnish claim that the landline phone of their Windsor home was “tapped by private investigators acting on the instruction of Associated”.

Lawyer David Sherborne said the singer’s personal assistant and the gardener were also allegedly targeted, and that the publisher “obtained [the couple’s] first child’s birth certificate, before they had even seen a copy themselves”.

Mr Sherborne also made a submission on behalf of Lady Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, alleging that Associated Newspapers had hired private investigators to “unlawfully or illegally” obtain her private information.

He said she feels a “deep sense of betrayal” that her son’s racially motivated murder was “exploited” by the publisher to “generate ‘exclusive’ headlines, sell newspapers and to profit”, and that she now wonders whether trusting the Daily Mail over its “entirely false” support for her fight for justice had caused her to “fail” her son.

Lawyers for Associated Newspapers – including Adrian Beltrami, the son of legendary criminal solicitor Joe Beltrami – said in written submissions that the claims have been brought too late and are “stale”.

They wrote: “The claimants have failed to show that they have a real prospect of discharging their burden at trial, and the court should not hesitate to dismiss these stale claims at an early stage, thereby avoiding what would otherwise be a considerable waste of time, costs and the court’s resources.”

In a separate statement on Monday, Associated Newspapers said it was “profoundly saddened” that Lady Lawrence had brought a claim against the company.

It added that a private investigator at the centre of the cases “has denied [the claimants’] allegations that he acted illegally against them on behalf of the Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday.”

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