Prince Harry seeking £440,000 damages as hacking case closes

The high-profile trial came to a close on Friday after seven weeks of evidence from dozens of witnesses, ITV News' Rebecca Barry reports

The Duke of Sussex is seeking £440,000 in damages from the Mirror Group Newspapers over alleged unlawful information gathering, it emerged today during the final day of the case.

Harry, 38, is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, claiming journalists at its titles – the Daily and Sunday Mirror and Sunday People – were linked to methods including phone hacking or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

His case is being heard alongside similar claims by actor Michael Turner, who is known professionally as Michael Le Vell and best known for playing Kevin Webster in Coronation Street, actress Nikki Sanderson and comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman.

The allegations in their claims about unlawful activity at MGN’s titles cover a period from as early as 1991 until at least 2011, the court has been told.

The high-profile trial of their claims came to a close on Friday after seven weeks of evidence from dozens of witnesses, including former journalists, editors, private investigators and MGN executives.

Harry faced eight hours of questioning over two days during a witness box appearance that drew the attention of the world’s media.

It was 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.

The Duke of Sussex leaving court. Credit: PA

At the end of the hearing, Mr Justice Fancourt, the judge deciding the case, said that preparing his judgment would take "some time".

"You will appreciate I have an investigation to conduct having listened to a trial over seven weeks," the judge said.

It emerged on Friday that Harry is seeking about £440,000 in damages if his case is successful, while MGN argues he would only be entitled to around £37,000 if the judge rules against the publisher.

The duke alleges 147 stories from 1996 to 2010, published by MGN titles, used information obtained through unlawful means.

Some 33 articles, dated between 1996 and 2009, were selected for examination during the trial of Harry’s and others’ contested claims against the publisher.

In a document released to the media on Friday afternoon, the duke’s lawyers suggested he could be awarded up to £320,000 if his case is successful in relation to all of these 33 stories.

Harry gave eight hours of testimony. Credit: PA

A further document released by his legal team late on Friday indicates he is seeking further damages of about £120,000 relating to episodes of alleged unlawful information gathering linked to MGN payment records – including records his lawyers say involved the targeting of his late mother, Diana Princess of Wales.

Harry has previously told the court that MGN’s alleged intrusion into his life contributed to “a huge amount of paranoia” in his relationships.

In his witness statement, the duke said that he found it “very hard to trust anyone, which led to bouts of depression and paranoia”.

The findings made by Judge Mr Justice Fancourt in relation to the four will be used to determine the outcome of dozens of claims brought by others against MGN, including actor Ricky Tomlinson, the estate of the late singer George Michael, ex-footballer and television presenter Ian Wright and Girls Aloud singer Cheryl.

MGN is largely contesting the claims and denies that any of the articles complained of resulted from phone hacking while contending that the vast majority did not arise from any other unlawful activity.

The publisher has made a limited number of admissions of unlawful activity in relation to the duke, Ms Sanderson and Ms Wightman, for which the publisher has apologised and accepted they will be entitled to some damages, but denies the majority of their claims and Mr Turner’s entire case.

MGN lawyers previously said Harry is entitled to just £500 for instance of unlawful information gathering, which was not related to the articles complained of by the duke, for which the publisher has apologised.

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