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Harry takes stand again in historic court battle with tabloids

Joe Jackson
07 June 2023, MVT 16:38
Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, waves as he arrives to the Royal Courts of Justice, Britain's High Court, in central London on June 7, 2023. Prince Harry testified he had suffered lifelong "press invasion" and that some media had blood on their hands, as he became the first British royal in more than 100 years to give evidence in court. -- Photo: Adrian Dennis / AFP
Joe Jackson
07 June 2023, MVT 16:38

Prince Harry was back on the stand for a second day of cross-examination in a London court on Wednesday, the first British royal in more than a century to give evidence on the witness stand.

The younger son of King Charles III is testifying against a tabloid publisher for alleged illegal information-gathering, including phone hacking, alongside several other claimants.

After around five hours of gruelling questioning Tuesday, he returned to the High Court just before 0900 GMT to continue giving evidence against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

The 38-year-old prince, again dressed in a dark suit and tie, claims the publisher of The Mirror, Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People used illegal practices to write dozens of stories about him.

"I believe phone hacking was at an industrial scale across at least three of its papers and that is beyond doubt," Harry said under renewed cross-examination by MGN lawyer Andrew Green.

He added if that was not accepted by the court, "I would feel some injustice".

On Tuesday, after swearing an oath on the Bible, the Duke of Sussex -- as he is also known -- took aim at the British press and, in a rarity for a royal, the government.

He told the court that media intrusion had blighted his life, while also claiming the state of both the press and government were "at rock bottom".

British royals have largely steered clear of publicly commenting about the government of the day, given the monarch is head of state of a constitutional monarchy and supposed to be above politics.

But Harry, who has launched several lawsuits against tabloid media groups in recent years alongside barrages of attacks towards his family, defied the convention in the history-making court appearance.

The last time a royal gave evidence in court was in the 1890s when the future king Edward VII took the stand in a slander trial.

Friends 'lost'

In a lengthy witness statement released Tuesday, the prince claimed to be the victim of relentless and distressing media intrusion "most of my life up until this day," claiming some media had blood on their hands.

At the May 10 start of the trial, MGN apologised and admitted to "some evidence" of unlawful information gathering, including for a story about Harry.

But it denied voicemail interception and also argued that some claims had been brought too late by Harry and the other claimants -- two TV soap opera actors and the ex-wife of a comedian.

Harry has faced questions about various aspects of the 33 tabloid stories being considered, covering everything from ex-girlfriends and rumours that army officer James Hewitt was his father to royal family relations.

The prince admitted that he had no recollection of reading the majority of the articles -- many around two decades old -- that he was complaining about.

But he called them "incredibly invasive" and taken as a whole they had made him acutely paranoid and ruined his relationships.

"Friendships were lost entirely unnecessarily," the prince noted.

Harry -- fifth in line to the throne -- stepped down from royal duties in early 2020 and relocated to California with his American wife Meghan.

He has long had a turbulent relationship with the press and holds the media responsible for the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a 1997 Paris car crash while being pursued by paparazzi.

In television interviews and his explosive memoir "Spare", released in January, Harry hit out at other royals, accusing them of colluding with the press.

In court filings unveiled in April, Harry claimed the royal family as an institution had struck a "secret agreement" with one UK publisher that had prevented him from suing, to avoid a royal entering the witness box.

He also alleged the monarchy wanted to prevent the opening of a "Pandora's Box" of negative coverage that could tarnish the royal brand.

© Agence France-Presse

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