Prince Harry has made a surprising return to the United Kingdom—not for a visit with any members of the British royal family but a court appearance.
The Duke of Sussex is at the High Court in London this week to attend the four-day preliminary hearing of a lawsuit filed in October 2022 accusing Associated Newspapers Limited, the London-based publisher of the Daily Mail, of unlawful information gathering. Musician Elton John, also a plaintiff, joined Harry for the first day of proceedings on Monday in the high-profile case.
According to the BBC, the suit also includes John’s husband, David Furnish; actor Elizabeth Hurley; Baroness Doreen Lawrence; politician Simon Hughes; and actor and fashion designer Sadie Frost. They claim they were victims of “abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” committed by ANL.
Here is what you need to know about the case and Harry’s recent confrontations with the British press.
What Are the Allegations?
According to CNN, the plaintiffs claim that ANL hired private investigators to plant listening devices in their homes and cars, as well as to record private calls. They also accuse the publisher of paying corrupt police officials to obtain information, using impersonation and deception to access medical records, and hacking into bank accounts and financial transactions.
According to the BBC, the celebrities’ lawyer David Sherborne on Monday detailed the alleged acts involving the respective parties:
- A filed court document said Harry felt “largely deprived of important aspects of his teenage years” and suffered “suspicion and paranoia” caused by the publication of ANL articles.
- John and Furnish allege the landline at their Windsor home was tapped and that ANL unlawfully obtained a copy of their first child’s birth certificate before they had even seen it.
- A private investigator acting on ANL’s behalf allegedly hacked Hurley’s phone and placed a mini microphone outside her home. Another claim states the car of Hugh Grant, Hurley’s ex-boyfriend, was bugged in an effort to obtain information about Hurley’s finances, travel plans, and medical records.
- Lawrence’s bank accounts were monitored, and the suit alleges ANL paid a private eye to unlawfully find the address of a man believed to be Hughes’ lover.
Sherborne wrote in court submissions the alleged acts primarily occurred from 1993 through 2011, with some continuing through 2018.
ANL denies the allegations; its lawyers argue the suit was brought too late and should be dismissed. The company wishes to end the claims without trial, but a judge will decide if the case goes any further following the four days of hearings.
What about Harry’s Other Battles with the Press?
This case isn’t the only recent legal run-in between Harry and British newspapers.
He is simultaneously suing ANL for defamation over a February 2022 article alleging the royal tried to hide his legal challenge of the British government’s refusal to let him pay for security arrangements while visiting the UK. A High Court judge ruled in July 2022 that parts of the article were, in fact, defamatory and allowed the case to continue.
Less than two weeks ago, on March 17, Harry’s lead attorney Justin Rushbrooke asked a judge to either strike out ANL’s defense or deliver a summary judgement in that case, according to the Associated Press. Rushbrooke said the article was “fundamentally inaccurate” and the facts of the case didn’t support ANL’s stance that the piece expressed an “honest opinion.” The judge said he would rule at a later date.
Harry also sued Rupert Murdoch–owned News Group Newspapers, the publisher of the Sun and the Daily Mirror, in October 2019 for alleged phone hacking. That case is set to go to trial in May, according to CNN.
Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex and Harry’s wife, successfully sued ANL for copyright infringement and violation of privacy after the Mail on Sunday illegally published a private letter she wrote to her father in August 2018. She was awarded £1, as well as a confidential sum paid by the publisher.
Tyler Piccotti joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University, an avid sports fan, a frequent moviegoer, and trivia buff.