Prince Harry and Elton John at court for hearing against Associated Newspapers
Allegations have been brought forward against Associated Newspapers Limited from Prince Harry, Elton John, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and more, as Rebecca Barry reports
Prince Harry appeared in court for the start of a hearing against the publisher of the Daily Mail, over alleged unlawful information-gathering at its titles.
The Duke of Sussex is part of a group of people, including Sir Elton John and Baroness Doreen Lawrence, who have brought claims for misuse of private information against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL).
Sir Elton John arrived at the High Court for the hearing in his claim against the Daily Mail publisher later on Monday afternoon, wearing a grey suit.
A four-day hearing began at the Royal Courts of Justice in London today, which is set to include ANL's bid for the claims to be dismissed without a trial.
Sir Elton's husband, David Furnish, and actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost are also part of the group, who announced the court action against ANL last October.
Their lawyers said at that time the group have "become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy" by ANL, which is also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline.
The Duke of Sussex arrived at the High Court in London for a hearing in his claim against Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers
In a statement announcing the launch of the legal action, released by Hamlins law firm, it was alleged the unlawful acts included hiring private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes and the recording of private phone conversations.
The publisher hit back at the allegations, describing them at the time as "preposterous smears" and a "pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal".
A spokesperson for ANL also said the allegations were "unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence".
While there have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, most of which have settled, this is the first claim to be brought against ANL.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) has settled claims relating to the now-defunct News Of The World, while never admitting any liability over claims made in relation to The Sun.
Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has settled claims relating to its titles, including The People and The Sunday Mirror.
Both publishers are facing further claims and have recently made attempts to bring the long-running litigation to an end.
Monday’s appearance is believed to be the first time Prince Harry has been back in the UK since the late Queen’s funeral in September. His surprise return comes nearly three months after he laid bare his troubled relationship with his father the King and brother the Prince of Wales in his controversial autobiography Spare.
ANL’s lawyers have said privacy claims brought by seven high-profile individuals including the Duke of Sussex and Baroness Lawrence should be dismissed without a trial. Adrian Beltrami KC, in written submissions, argued the legal actions have been brought too late and are “stale”. The barrister said the individuals have to prove they did not know earlier, or could not have discovered earlier, they might have had a claim against ANL for alleged misuse of their private information. Mr Beltrami said that more than a decade after the Leveson Inquiry and several criminal and civil proceedings over phone hacking: “it would be surprising indeed for any reasonably informed member of the public, let alone a figure in the public eye, to have been unaware of these matters”. He continued: “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.” The hearing before Mr Justice Nicklin is due to conclude on Thursday.
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