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Prince Harry wins bid for privacy trial against Daily Mail publisher | UK News

Prince Harry and stars including Sir Elton John and Liz Hurley have won their bid to take the publisher of the Daily Mail to trial over alleged phone-tapping and other breaches of privacy.

Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) stood accused of carrying out or commissioning unlawful information gathering, such as hiring private investigators to placing listening devices inside cars, “blagging” private records, and accessing and recording private phone conversations.

The publisher “firmly” denied the allegations. At a preliminary hearing in March, its legal team asked Mr Justice Nicklin to rule in its favour without a trial, arguing the legal challenge had been brought “far too late”.

But in a ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Nicklin said ANL had “not been able to deliver a ‘knockout blow’ to the claims of any of these claimants”.

In his 95-page judgment, he said each of the seven people have a “real prospect” of demonstrating ANL concealed “relevant facts” that would have allowed them to bring a claim against the publisher earlier.

“What was deliberately hidden from the claimants – if they are correct in their allegations – were the underlying unlawful acts that are alleged to have been used to obtain information for subsequent publication,” he added.

Actor Hugh Grant, who is a board director for Hacked Off, a press reform campaign group, described the ruling as a “significant blow to the Daily Mail”.

He added it is “great news” for anyone who “wants the truth about allegations of illegal press practices to come out”.

Elton John is among those making a claim
Elton John is among those making a claim

Harry brought the privacy case along with six others, including Sir Elton‘s husband David Furnish, actress and designer Sadie Frost, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, and former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Simon Hughes.

The royal made an appearance at the Royal Courts of Justice during the four-day hearing in March, with Sir Elton, Ms Frost and Lady Lawrence also attending at times.

What’s alleged?

Lawyers for the claimants have said they had become aware of “highly distressing” evidence revealing they had been victims of “abhorrent criminal activity” and “gross breaches of privacy” by Associated Newspapers.

Accusations include:

• The hiring of private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside people’s cars and homes;

• The commissioning of individuals to surreptitiously listen into and record people’s live, private telephone calls while they were taking place;

• The impersonation of individuals to obtain medical information from private hospitals, clinics, and treatment centres by deception;

• Paying police officials, with corrupt links to private investigators, for sensitive information;

• Accessing bank accounts and financial transactions.

The latest move in Harry’s crusade against tabloids

This is another significant step for Prince Harry’s crusade against the press.

And yes, we’ve been here before. Back in June, the Duke of Sussex made history when he appeared in the witness box in his case against the publishers of the Mirror.

But Harry’s made it clear he wants to take on all the tabloids, and this case is another chapter.

The allegations against Associated Newspapers Ltd echo those we’ve heard before: phone hacking and blagging – obtaining information by deceit.

We don’t yet know the full details, but those bringing the allegations all say they suffered “distress and harm”.

And Harry isn’t the only claimant; the case also involves Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, as well as Liz Hurley, Sadie Frost, the former politician Sir Simon Hughes and Baroness Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Perhaps Doreen Lawrence’s allegations could be most significant. She is suing the very newspapers that so publicly backed her campaign for justice.

‘Preposterous smears’

ANL has described the allegations as “preposterous smears”, and claimed legal action taken is “a fishing expedition by [the] claimants and their lawyers”.

Adrian Beltrami KC, for ANL, said the legal action against it had “no real prospects of succeeding” and was “barred” under a legal period of limitation.

Read more:
Harry v ANL: Everything you need to know about the court case
Harry says Royal Family ‘without doubt’ withheld information from him on phone hacking

Sadie Frost arriving at the Royal Courts Of Justice, central London, ahead of a hearing claim over allegations of unlawful information gathering brought against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) by seven people - the Duke of Sussex, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Sir Elton John, David Furnish, Liz Hurley, Sadie Frost and Sir Simon Hughes. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2023.
Sadie Frost arriving at the Royal Courts Of Justice earlier in 2023

He added the claimants could have used “reasonable diligence” to find out if they had a potential claim before October 2016.

Many of the claimants had brought legal action against other newspaper groups and hired lawyers involved in the Leveson Inquiry into press standards and phone hacking litigation, which took place in 2011 and 2012, as well as a “research team”, the barrister said.

“It is inconceivable that what is claimed to be the key new information leading to each claimant realising they had a claim arrived unbidden in the past couple of years,” Mr Beltrami said. “It must have been the product of a process, probably over a number of years.”

However, lawyers for the claimants said they were “thrown off the scent”, having believed “categorical denials” from ANL over any involvement in unlawful activity.

David Sherborne, representing Harry and others, described ANL’s bid to end the claims as “ambitious as it is unattractive”.