Prince Harry and the publisher of the Daily Mirror newspaper have settled the remainder of his hacking claim against the company.
Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has agreed to pay “a substantial additional sum” in damages to the prince, as well as his legal costs – on top of the £140,600 already awarded in December, it was revealed at a hearing about costs on Friday.
Barrister David Sherborne said the publisher would make an interim payment of £400,000. The Duke of Sussex was not in court.
It follows the ruling in the High Court case late last year that phone hacking was carried out by MGN journalists from 1996 to 2011, and was “widespread and habitual” from 1998.
Judge Timothy Fancourt also said that phone hacking continued “to some extent” during the Leveson Inquiry into media standards in 2011 and 2012, and concluded that Harry‘s phone was hacked “to a modest extent” by MGN reporters.
In a statement read on behalf of Prince Harry, Mr Sherborne said outside court on Friday: “Everything we said was happening at Mirror Group was in fact happening, and indeed far worse as the court ruled in its extremely damning judgment.
“As the court said this morning we have uncovered and proved the shockingly dishonest way in which the Mirror acted for so many years and then sought to conceal the truth.
“In light of all this, we call again for the authorities to uphold the rule of law and to prove that no one is above it.”
Piers Morgan singled out
Mr Sherborne singled out former Mirror editor Piers Morgan, adding: “That includes Mr Morgan, who as editor, knew perfectly well what was going on, as the judge held.
“Even his own employer realised it simply could not call him as a witness of truth. His contempt for the court’s ruling and his continued attacks ever since demonstrate why it was so important to obtain a clear and detailed judgment.”
Mr Morgan said in response on X: “I totally agree with Prince Harry that ruthless intrusion into the private lives of the Royal Family for financial gain is utterly reprehensible… and I hope he stops doing it.”
The December ruling said there was “convincing” evidence that Mr Morgan, who was editor of the Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004, knew about phone hacking when he was in charge of the paper.
Mr Morgan responded with a heated statement to reporters outside his home, which said he had “never hacked a phone” and Harry and his wife Meghan are set on “destroying the monarchy”.
Concluding his statement, the duke said his “mission continues”. “I believe in the positive change it will bring for all of us. It is the very reason why I started this, and why I will continue to see it through to the end,” it added.
An MGN spokesperson said in a statement: “We are pleased to have reached this agreement, which gives our business further clarity to move forward from events that took place many years ago and for which we have apologised.”
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Harry, who made a surprise appearance at the NFL Honours in Las Vegas on Thursday night after flying to the UK earlier in the week to see the King following his cancer diagnosis, first brought the case against MGN in 2019.
His claims against the publisher were “proved in part” during a privacy trial last year, with 15 of the 33 articles presented in court found to be the product of phone hacking or other unlawful information gathering.
However, a further 115 articles in his claim could have led to a further trial had a settlement not been reached.
Concern about soap stars’ legal behaviour
Harry’s case was heard alongside similar claims brought by actor Michael Turner, who is known professionally as Michael Le Vell and is most famous for playing Kevin Webster in Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and former Coronation Street actress Nikki Sanderson, and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.
Claims brought by Ms Sanderson and Ms Wightman were dismissed by the judge because they were made too late, despite the judge finding that some of their complaints were valid.
Mr Justice Fancourt said on Friday he was “concerned” about the way “claims of claimants like Ms Sanderson and Mr Turner are being conducted”.
He said they “often appear to say what is needed to advance the claim” rather than what they actually remember.
Mr Fancourt said it is not justified for someone to “sit tight, not cooperate or negotiate at all and hope that something will eventually turn up to support the more outlandish claims made”.
Mirror forced to pay ‘generic’ court costs
As well as the “representative” claims brought by the duke and the three other ‘test’ claimants’, the trial last year also heard “generic” evidence about wider alleged wrongdoing at MGN.
During Friday’s hearing, Mr Justice Fancourt said MGN should pay so-called “generic” legal costs to those currently involved in legal action against them.
“On the generic issues, there can be little doubt that the claimants were successful,” he said. “In this unusual case, justice is only done by awarding the claimants their costs of the generic issues.”
The final figure of costs is yet to be assessed, but the High Court in London heard the group of people who sued the publisher were currently seeking payment of around £1.9m from MGN towards the legal costs of bringing those allegations to court.
Ms Sanderson and Ms Wightman should pay MGN the legal costs of defending their individual claims, the judge ruled on Friday, while Mr Turner should pay MGN’s costs of responding to his claim from the date of 5 March 2022, after an offer was made.