Prince Harry slams Piers Morgan and the government in historic High Court trial

Prince Harry tells the High Court of his experience with the 'utterly vile' tabloid press in his case against the Daily Mirror's publisher, ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry has the latest

The Duke of Sussex has singled out broadcaster Piers Morgan in the High Court while giving evidence in his case against the Daily Mirror’s publisher.

Harry also said Rishi Sunak's government was at "rock bottom" and claimed the tabloid press contributed to his break up with ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy.

It is thought to be the first time a senior member of the royal family has personally appeared in court proceedings since 2002, when the Princess Royal pleaded guilty to a charge under the Dangerous Dogs Act after her pet bit two children in Windsor Great Park.

Harry is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), claiming journalists at its titles – which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People – were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

MGN is contesting the claims and has either denied or not admitted each of them. The publisher also argues some of the claimants have brought their legal action too late.

The duke arrived on Tuesday at London's Rolls Building, which was surrounded by journalists and a heavy police presence.

'How are you feeling, Prince Harry?': The Duke arrives at London's High Court

The Duke singles out Piers Morgan

In his witness statement, made public as the hearing began, Harry rebuked broadcaster and former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan.

“The thought of Piers Morgan and his band of journalists earwigging into my mother’s private and sensitive messages (in the same way as they have me) and then having given her a 'nightmare time' three months prior to her death in Paris, makes me feel physically sick and even more determined to hold those responsible, including Mr Morgan, accountable for their vile and entirely unjustified behaviour,” Harry wrote.

Mr Morgan has previously been dismissive of Prince Harry's claims against MGM. Last month, he told ITV News he was “not going to take lectures on privacy invasion” from the Duke of Sussex.

Listen to the latest Royal news listen to our podcast, The Royal Rota...

Unlawful actions by press 'contributed to break up with Chelsy Davy'

In his statement, Harry repeatedly referred to his former romantic relationship with Chelsy Davy, which ran "on and off" from 2004 to 2010.

In one instance, Harry said he believes the couple's holiday to Mozambique was disrupted after journalists from MGN "and other tabloids" "blagged" the couple's flight details and hotel bookings by intercepting voicemails. He said the press flew out and booked into a hotel in the African country "before we got there"."We were never on our own and able to enjoy each other’s company away from the prying eyes of the tabloids. This put a huge amount of unnecessary stress and strain on our relationship," Harry wrote.

Prince Harry, left, and Chelsy Davy, right, wait for the England v Australia international rugby union match to start in 2009. Credit: AP

The couple lost friends as they feared those close to them were leaking information to the media, Harry alleged.

"Of course, now that we know that this information was invariably obtained by unlawful means, these friendships were lost entirely unnecessarily, which is a matter of huge regret for me," he said.

"Ultimately, these factors led [Chelsy] to make the decision that a Royal life was not for her, which was incredibly upsetting for me at the time."

The Duke pans Rishi Sunak's government

As well as criticising the British press, Harry also slammed the government.

“At the moment, our country is judged globally by the state of our press and our government – both of which I believe are at rock bottom,” he said in his statement.

He also lashed out at the government for being “scared of alienating” the press, and says both the government and the police are “scared to hold them accountable or seek justice against them”, which makes parts of the media “feel above the law”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that comments made by Harry were part of a “live legal case” and he would not be commenting.

Harry says he was cast in the press as a 'thicko' and 'playboy'

In his statement, Harry claimed that "people have died" as a result of press intrusion, adding "how much more blood will stain their typing fingers before someone can put a stop to this madness".

He also said that in his younger years, tabloids characterised him as a "thicko", "playboy" and ‘irresponsible drug taker".

Under cross examination from Andrew Green KC, for MGN, Harry admitted he had a “long-standing” hostility towards the press.

Mr Green asked if this hostility had pre-dated the discovery that unlawful methods had been used by some of the press.

The duke replied: “Yes… because the unlawful methods were hidden from me as well as everybody else.”

MGN hacked Harry's phone while he was at Eton, he alleges

Mr Green questioned the duke about a Daily Mirror article published in 1996, titled “Diana so sad on Harry’s big day”.

The court heard that Harry has complained about the article containing details of his feelings regarding the divorce of his parents and the ill health of a family friend.

The MGN barrister said the duke was first issued with a mobile phone when he went to Eton College in 1998, putting it to Harry that the 1996 article could not have involved phone hacking.

Prince Harry in his room at Eton College in 2003. Credit: PA

Harry replied: “That’s incorrect. My security at school had a separate room with a land line.” He said “most Sunday nights”, after being dropped off by his mother at the elite school “the first thing we would do is to use the phone to ring her… in floods of tears”.

Harry also said it could have been his mother who was hacked, but Mr Green replied “that’s just speculation you’ve come up with now”.

Harry nods to his fractured relationship with William

Mr Green referred to a 2003 article about an argument between the two princes over meeting Paul Burrell, Princess Diana's former butler.

Harry said this was the sort of article that could cause “distrust” between him and his brother, nodding to their currently strained relationship.

William and Harry in 2008 Credit: Jerome Delay/PA

Mr Green said in the article, Harry was said to be firmly against meeting Mr Burrell and described him as a “two-faced shit”.

Harry said: “Those are words that I used and I certainly left voicemails on my brother’s phone.”

MGN's lawyer continues to deny Harry's claims

As ITV News' Royal Editor Chris Ship notes, Andrew Green KC's defence throughout the hearing appears to have been that "all stories Prince Harry claims were obtained by unlawful intelligence gathering were either in other publications already , confirmed by the palace or from 'confidential sources'".

Harry’s individual case against MGM began on Monday.

In that day's hearing, the court heard Harry had flown to the UK from Los Angeles on Sunday night, as he was celebrating his daughter Lilibet’s second birthday.

But the duke did not arrive at court on Monday as expected, leaving judge Mr Justice Fancourt “a little surprised”.

The duke arrived on Tuesday at the Rolls Building, which was surrounded by journalists and a heavy police presence. Credit: PA

Last month, MGN admitted that there was “some evidence of the instruction of third parties to engage in other types of UIG (unlawful information gathering) in respect of each of the claimants”, but it denied using hacked phones to intercept voicemail messages.

Harry alleges that about 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 contained information gathered using unlawful methods, and 33 of these have been selected to be considered at the trial.

Harry’s claim is being heard alongside three other “representative” claims during a trial which began last month and is due to last six to seven weeks.

Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell is also named as a ‘representative case’ in the trial Credit: Dave Thompson/PA

The three other representative claimants are Coronation Street actor Michael Turner, known professionally as Michael Le Vell, who is best known for playing Kevin Webster in the long-running soap, former Coronation Street actress Nikki Sanderson, and comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman.

Mr Green said voicemail interception was denied in all four cases and that there was “no evidence or no sufficient evidence”.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...