Government set to be dragged into Harry's legal battle with Mail publisher

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice for an earlier hearing (Getty Images)
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice for an earlier hearing (Getty Images)

The government is set to be dragged into the Duke of Sussex’s legal battle with the publisher of the Daily Mail, the High Court has heard.

Harry – along with other high-profile individuals including Sir Elton John and Baroness Doreen Lawrenceis suing Associated Newspapers (ANL) over alleged unlawful information gathering.

The trio, with Sir Elton’s husband David Furnish, actresses Sadie Frost and Liz Hurley, and MP Sir Simon Hughes, accuse the publisher of carrying out or commissioning unlawful activities such as hiring private investigators to place listening devices inside cars, “blagging” private records and accessing and recording private phone conversations.

ANL denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

In a ruling earlier this month, Mr Justice Nicklin rejected a bid by ANL to have the whole case thrown out, after the publisher argued the claims were being brought “far too late”.

However the judge did rule that ledgers that lie at the heart of the case - allegedly containing details of contact between private investigators and journalists - cannot currently form part of the High Court claim.

The ledgers were handed over by ANL to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, subject to a confidentiality agreement and a restriction on further disclosure.

In the wake of the ruling, the claimants have asked the newspaper group to hand over the ledgers voluntarily – a move that has been furiously rejected by ANL.

The claimants say their next move is to apply for the government for permission to deploy the ledgers in the civil courts, by seeking for the Leveson Inquiry restrictions to be removed.

Lawyers for ANL have accused the Prince and his fellow claimants of obtaining the ledgers through “illegitimate” means, and acting “tactically and cynically” to try to introduce them into the legal dispute to support “speculative claims”.

The company said it will not support a proposed joint application to the government to remove the Leveson Inquiry restrictions, and “will oppose any such application if made”.


If the government refuses to intervene and allow the ledgers to be used, the claimants will be forced to remove all references to that evidence from their cases.

However, they believe the ledgers would end up having to be disclosed again by ANL ahead of the full civil trial.

“Given the defendant’s repeated public statements that the claims brought by the Claimants are ‘preposterous’ … and that it has nothing to hide, it would be surprising for the Defendant not to disclose this material voluntarily to the Claimants”, the lawyers for Prince Harry said.

“The Claimants ask, rhetorically, what legitimate reason is there for the Defendant not to do so if it genuinely believes that the allegations of unlawful conduct made against it are without foundation, as it has so repeatedly claimed.”

Both sides have accused the other of failing to cooperate in the increasingly bitter court dispute.

ANL says the issue with the ledgers is a “problem of the claimants’ own making”, and denied acting cynically by refusing to cooperate with their efforts to deploy the evidence properly.

The publisher’s lawyers say disclosure of the ledgers later in the court proceedings is not guaranteed, and added: “It is the Claimants who have chosen to rely on illegitimately obtained information to plead their claims.

“It is not for (ANL) to save the Claimants from the consequences of their own improper actions by providing them with documents to which they are not entitled.”

In his 95-page-judgment delivered on November 10, Mr Justice Nicklin said that each of the seven people in the ANL claim have a “real prospect” of demonstrating that ANL concealed “relevant facts” that would have allowed them to bring a claim against the publisher earlier.

The cases remain at an early stage and ANL has yet to file a formal defence in the case which could see a third High Court trial centred on Harry’s allegations of unlawful information gathering against major newspaper publishers.

Following the ruling, ANL said in a statement: “As we have always made unequivocally clear, the lurid claims made by Prince Harry and others of phone hacking, landline tapping, burglary and sticky-window microphones are simply preposterous and we look forward to establishing this in court in due course.”