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Prince Harry in Court

Prince Harry made his debut in London’s High Court yesterday taking to the witness stand in his civil case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN). The Duke of Sussex hopes to prove that MGN used illegal means to gather information about his private life between 1996 and 2011.


Harry is the first senior member of the British Royal Family to appear in a witness box and experience cross-examination for 133 years. The eldest son of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, the later King Edward VII, was ordered to give evidence in court in 1890 after becoming embroiled in a gambling scandal.


The high-profile court case comes more than three years after the Duke and his wife, Meghan, left the U.K. for a supposedly quieter and more peaceful life. Many argue that since moving to the USA, the couple has courted the media more than ever, revealing highly personal information about the Royals. Much of this information has been scrutinised and found to be factually inaccurate. 


However, Harry’s resentment towards the media and tabloid press are not new; throughout his life, he has claimed that press intrusion has negatively impacted him in a number of ways, from his relationships to his mental health. He views this court case as the beginning of his “life’s work” to change how the media functions within Britain. A task his father, the King, called a “suicide mission.”


Monday in Court

After flying into London from California late on Sunday evening, Harry did not attend court on Monday. His absence was well-noted by the defence barristers and judge. His legal team cited his daughter’s birthday as the reason for missing the first day of the trial, which garnered criticism from some in the media, accusing him of “wasting court time.”


As there is no jury in this civil case and its outcome will be determined by the judge, it seems rather unwise to irritate him before even starting.


Despite his absence, both parties read their opening statements. David Sherborne is the barrister representing Prince Harry; he is described as a “stellar defamation specialist” and “a fierce advocate,” working with a long list of high-profile clientele, including the late Diana, Princess of Wales.


Andrew Green KC is the lawyer for MGN, a supposed “beast in court” who is “particularly at home with cross-examination.” Mr. Green explained to the judge that he was “deeply troubled” by Harry being a no-show because he needed more than one day to cross-examine him; the judge granted that Harry’s time in the witness box would now go into Wednesday if necessary.


Tuesday in Court

Prince Harry arrived at court before appearing on the witness stand at 10:30 am. Mr. Sherborne said the court should refer to him as “Your Royal Highness” and “Prince Harry” thereafter. Journalists in the courtroom said the Prince spoke quietly, with some struggling to hear him.


Shortly after 10:40 am, Harry’s 55-page witness statement was released to the public. It was highly critical of the British press and the British Government, claiming that both “are at rock bottom.” Perhaps an ill-advised decision considering he remains fifth-in-line to the throne, and royals in a constitutional monarchy are expected to refrain from making political comments.


Journalist Piers Morgan also came under heavy fire in the witness statement. Harry accuses him of illegally meddling in the voicemail messages of his late mum, calling his alleged behaviour “vile” and “entirely unjustifiable.” Mr. Morgan said to journalist’s yesterday evening, “I wish him luck with his privacy campaign and look forward to reading about it in his next book.”  Today, he said he would refrain from making more comments until after the court case.


Andrew Green started his cross-examination by highlighting the misconduct of one private investigator hired by MGN to find sensitive information relating to Harry. He said “This should never have happened,” and that it is the only occasion it did.


Prince Harry’s perhaps paranoia surrounding phone hacking is easy to understand, as the disgraced News of the World admitted to hacking his mobile phone nine times in the early-2000s, something nobody, regardless of public interest, should ever experience. 


Mr. Green and Prince Harry went back and forth discussing specific articles. What became apparent was Harry’s lack of solid evidence. Obviously, he suffered intrusion, but this does not automatically equate to criminal activity. He may have quickly learned this interrogation would not be as straightforward as his other more controlled interviews with Oprah Winfrey and Tom Bradby. In the courtroom, only facts matter. Feelings are irrelevant.


Knowing the world is making judgements on your exact words seconds after you say them is no easy feat. Harry was commended by many journalists for his composure in such a hostile environment.


Those in court spoke of some uncomfortable moments throughout Tuesday, particularly when Mr. Green attempted to undermine the claimant's entire case. He said, “Are we not… in the realms of total speculation?” Harry firmly disagreed.


Toward the end of the session on Tuesday, Mr. Green began using excerpts from the tell-all Spare, Prince Harry's recently published book. It appears sections do not correspond with his witness statement, particularly surrounding conversations about Paul Burrell, Diana's former butler. This moment probably proved quite embarrassing for Harry, who had to concede and admit he was unsure which account was the truth.


After finishing for the day, the Duke of Sussex left the court shortly before 5 pm looking relaxed, a demeanour many of those watching believe he carried over into the proceedings on Wednesday. Prince Harry’s legal team relayed their happiness with his appearance on Tuesday. MGN barrister Mr. Green probably attempted to agitate him with his questioning, but the Prince remained cool, calm, and collected throughout.


Many on social media noted the absence of his wife and her lack of public support. It is understood that Meghan chose to stay in California with their two children.


Wednesday in Court

Court proceedings kicked off timely at 10:30 am, as Mr. Green worked through the remaining few articles. He asked Prince Harry whether he would be happy or disappointed if the courts determined that no MGN journalists hacked his phone, with Harry responding that he would “feel some injustice if it wasn’t accepted.”

The pair went back and forth for a couple more hours. The articles in question regarding private relationships are incredibly intrusive and arguably not in the public interest, but again there was no apparent evidence of criminal wrongdoing, with many papers publishing similar stories and using the same quotes.


At 1 pm, Mr. Sherborne began questioning Harry. The Duke claimed that the press had “misled” him throughout his life and harassed him and Prince William for more than ten years when they were younger. He went on to explain that from the moment he began using a mobile phone, he noticed an abundance of strange activity, and it did not stop after 2011. 


Before finalising Mr. Sherborne said, “This is a very public courtroom, with the media watching, how has that made you feel?” Prince Harry responded, “It’s a lot.”


Jane Kerr, the former Daily Mirror Royal Correspondent from 1997 to 2005, went to the witness stand following Prince Harry. A more in-depth run-down of the events can be found here.


Turbulent Relationship with the Press

After the devastating loss of his mother, the Duke of Sussex appeared to develop a hatred of the British press, blaming them for igniting fear and sadness in Diana during the last years of her life. He also accuses the media for attempting to destroy his marriage and breaking down relationships with his father and brother.

It is difficult not to feel empathy for Prince Harry who has had his privacy breached many times as a young man trying to find his way, particularly regarding his relationships with former girlfriends and substance abuse.


However, the latest attacks on his family have not done Harry many favours; some journalists and much of the public struggle to feel sympathy. You cannot expect a right to privacy while disregarding others' same rights. You cannot run to the same media that you claim to hate.


Despite years of positive press throughout his 20s and early 30s, Harry still feels betrayed by the media. With more court cases against the British press due to proceed in the near future, it is clear he is not backing down.




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