By Jess Glass, PA
Britain’s Prince Harry did not have an “expectation of privacy” over a report he was allegedly punished by his father for dressing up as a Nazi, The Mirror’s publisher has told a London court.
Several high-profile figures in the UK are bringing claims against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over alleged unlawful information gathering at its titles The Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People.
Claims brought by four individuals, including Harry, are being heard in a seven-week trial as “representative” cases of the types of allegations facing the publisher – including voicemail interception, securing information through deception and hiring private investigators for unlawful activities.
The High Court in London previously heard Harry’s case is that 148 articles published between 1996 and 2010 by MGN titles included information that was allegedly obtained through unlawful means, including phone hacking.
Mr Justice Fancourt previously ruled that 33 of the articles should be considered at the trial.
On the second day of the case on Thursday, details of each of the 33 articles and MGN’s response to them were made public.
The subjects of the articles in the case include Harry’s relationship with his family and ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy, a few injuries and illnesses, his military service and allegations of drug use.
MGN repeatedly denied that details contained in various articles published during Harry’s life was private information belonging to him.
It defended some of its reporting by alleging a “public interest” in stories or claimed published information was “trivial” in nature.
In the document put into the case by the publisher’s lawyers, the court heard that one of the articles in Harry’s claim, published in the Sunday Mirror in February 2005, said that the duke had been made to do farm work by Charles – the then-Prince of Wales – after wearing a Nazi uniform at a party.
Andrew Green KC, for MGN, denied the details in the article had been sourced unlawfully or through phone hacking.
He said: “The information complained of came from prior reports in the public domain. The other information in the article came from a confidential source.”
The publisher also denied that Harry had any expectation of privacy over the story.
The barrister continued: “That the claimant, as a high-profile member of the royal family, had carried out some work on a farm was not information in respect of which he had a reasonable expectation of privacy, particularly if it was in response to his wearing of a Nazi uniform.
“Alternatively, any minimal privacy interest was outweighed by the public interest in this information about his work and the royal family’s response to his wearing a Nazi uniform.”
Another article in the duke’s claim was published in the Sunday Mirror in January 2002 under the headline “Harry took drugs” which alleged the duke had smoked cannabis.
MGN said the information came from a set of articles published in the now-defunct News Of The World, which were widely followed up.
Mr Green continued: “The palace had confirmed the story to the News Of The World, after the Prince of Wales decided to co-operate with the title.”
The barrister said that quotes from royal sources and family friends “were, it is to be inferred, authorised by the palace … in an effort to manage the story”.
He added: “A senior member of the royal family does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in taking illegal drugs, particularly when he did so at a public house in combination with illegally drinking alcohol underage.”
Other articles at the centre of Harry’s claim include:
- A September 1996 Daily Mirror story with the headline “Diana so sad on Harry’s big day” which the publisher said came from “prior reports” in the public domain.
- A Daily Mirror story from November 2000 about Harry breaking his thumb, which MGN said “came from extensive prior reports in the public domain and had been disclosed to the press by the palace”.
- A Sunday Mirror article entitled “Rugger Off Harry”, published in November 2001 about an injury he had is also in Harry’s claim and is attributed to a “confidential Eton source” and not illegal methods by MGN.
- A March 2002 piece in the Daily Mirror about Harry’s diagnosis with glandular fever, which MGN said it was “likely that information was discreetly released by the palace” in advance of a family trip to Switzerland.
Lawyers for Harry said that unlawful information gathering by MGN journalists was “habitual and widespread” amid a “flood of illegality” and that Harry’s case is “significant not just in terms of the span but also the range of activities”.
David Sherborne, for Harry, said on Wednesday: “We all remember the images of him walking behind his mother’s coffin.
“From that moment on, as a schoolboy and from his career in the army and as a young adult he was subjected, it was clear, to the most intrusive methods of obtaining his personal information.
“Prince or not, the blatantly unlawful and illegal methods used by the defendants … was quite frankly appalling.”
MGN is contesting the cases at trial and has said there is “no evidence, or no sufficient evidence, of voicemail interception in any of these four claims”.
The court previously heard that MGN has admitted that a private investigator was instructed, by a journalist at The People, to unlawfully gather information about Harry’s activities at the Chinawhite nightclub one night in February 2004.
Mr Green said the publisher “unreservedly apologises” to Prince Harry and that it accepts he was entitled to “appropriate compensation”.