Prince Harry tells London court ‘vile’ press has blood on its hands
Prince Harry launched a fierce attack on the “vile” press on Tuesday, blaming tabloids for destroying his adolescence and later relationships, as he gave evidence for almost five hours in his lawsuit against a tabloid publisher.
As he became the first senior British royal to appear in a witness box in more than a century, Harry also said the thought of people unlawfully intruding into the private life of his late mother Princess Diana made him “feel physically sick”.
The prince, the fifth-in-line to the throne, and 100 others are suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, at the High Court in London over allegations of widespread unlawful information gathering between 1991 and 2011.
In his 50-page written witness statement and a day of cross-examination from MGN’s lawyer Andrew Green, the younger son of King Charles said he had been targeted since 1996 when he was a schoolboy.
“I’ve experienced hostility from the press since I was born,” he said.
Harry said the press would try to destroy his relationships with girlfriends, blaming them for his break-up with Chelsy Davy, for causing his circle of friends to shrink, and for bouts of depression and paranoia.
He said he had been labelled a “playboy prince”, a “thicko”, a “failure” and a “drop out”.
“Looking back on it now, such behaviour on their part is utterly vile,” he wrote, saying the tabloids had incited “hatred and harassment” into his and his wife Meghan’s private lives.
In another section he said: “How much more blood will stain their typing fingers before someone can put a stop to this madness?”
Asked to whom he was referring, he said: “Some of the editors and journalists that are responsible for causing a lot of pain, upset and in some cases - perhaps inadvertently - death.”
Green began his questioning respectfully, personally apologising to Harry on MGN’s behalf over one instance in which it admitted unlawful information gathering, saying “it should never have happened and it will not happen again”.
The lawyer then forensically and with increasing hostility quizzed the prince over 33 newspaper articles, whose details Harry claims were obtained unlawfully.
Looking relaxed but serious, and speaking softly but firmly, Harry, the first senior British royal to give evidence for 130 years, said thousands if not millions of stories had been written about him, as Green pressed him on whether he had read the MGN articles in question at the time they were published.
The lawyer intimated that the distress he had suffered was caused by press coverage in general, not the specific MGN stories, and suggested they were based on details already in the public domain.
On a number of occasions, Green described his allegations as “total speculation”.
When asked about the source of information for articles at the centre of his lawsuit, Harry repeatedly said that question should be asked of the journalist who wrote them, saying they appeared suspicious.
Quizzed about one article, Harry said it was “as distressing looking at it now” as it was at the time it was published in 2004. He will be back on Wednesday to give more evidence.
‘Harry, we love you’
When he arrived at court, he briefly smiled as he passed the phalanx of photographers and camera crews. Outside the courtroom itself people queued to gain access to one of the dozen or so seats allocated to the public.
When Harry returned to the room after a short break in proceedings, he was greeted with cries of “Harry, we love you”, by one small group waiting outside.
On Monday, his lawyer David Sherborne said Harry’s late mother Princess Diana, had also been a victim of hacking, and the prince referred to this in his witness statement, laying the blame on the Daily Mirror’s former editor Piers Morgan.
He said the thought of Piers Morgan and his “band of journalists earwigging” into my mother’s messages “makes me feel physically sick”.
Morgan, now a high-profile broadcaster who works for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp NWSA.O, has always denied any involvement in, or knowledge of phone-hacking or other illegal activity.
Asked what he thought of Tuesday’s accusations, Morgan told Sky News: “I didn’t see it. But I wish him luck with his privacy campaign. Look forward to reading it in his next book.”
MGN, now owned by Reach RCH.L, has previously admitted its titles were involved in phone-hacking, settling more than 600 claims, but Green has said there was no evidence that Harry had ever been a victim.
He argued that some of the personal information had come from, or with the consent of, senior Buckingham Palace aides.
Harry, who has accused his family, or their aides of colluding with the tabloids, replied: “From certain individuals, yes.”