'No part of Prince Harry's life was safe': Press intrusion led to split with Chelsy Davy, hacking trial hears

5 June 2023, 11:13 | Updated: 5 June 2023, 15:29

Prince Harry has been involved in six legal battles at the High Court in recent months.
Prince Harry has been involved in six legal battles at the High Court in recent months. Picture: Alamy
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

No part of Prince Harry’s life was "safe" from press intrusion, his lawyer has told the High Court during his phone hacking case against the publisher of the Daily Mirror.

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David Sherbourne said even the duke's school, family and friends were open to being covered, and his personal relationships were "too tempting" for the media.

He said the royal's phone "would have been hacked on multiple occasions" and the level of intrusion meant that every part of his relationship with Chelsy Davy was picked up on by the media.

Mr Sherbourne said: "The ups and downs and ins and outs of their relationship, the beginning, the break-ups and finally the split between them were all revealed and picked apart by the three Mirror Group titles," adding this was "clearly driven by unlawful activity".

He said "no aspect of the young prince's life was safe" from press intrusion, and one aspect of his life was "too tempting and sold too many newspapers, and that is the personal relationships that he made".

Mr Sherborne said Harry was "subjected to" unlawful information gathering activity "right from when he was a young boy at school", which continued through "the tragic death of his mother", his military training at Sandhurst and into adulthood.

There was "no time in his life when he was safe from this activity", he said, adding: "Nothing was sacrosanct or out of bounds and there was no protection from this unlawful information gathering."

Diana, Princess of Wales, was a "huge target" for Mirror Group Newspapers's titles, he claimed.

He said: "It is part of our case that the interception of her messages would necessarily have involved obtaining information about the young prince."

The lawyer also referenced letters between Diana and celebrity Michael Barrymore, which referred to meetings between the two.

In one of the letters Diana referred to being "devastated" to learn the "Daily Mirror" had called her office about him and their meetings.

Diana said she had not told anyone about the meetings. Mr Sherborne said: "We say it is plainly that the Daily Mirror has been listening to the voicemail messages and that is how they knew of the secret and highly sensitive meetings between Princess Diana and poor Mr Barrymore."

Speaking about one of the 33 articles being complained about, Mr Sherborne referenced one piece published in September 1996, "less than a year before the tragic death" of Diana, with the headline "Diana so sad on Harry's big day".

MGN, which publishes the Mirror, said this was not obtained through unlawful activity and was already in the public domain.

He said the article, which also reported on the ill-health of their family gardener, bore "tell-tale" details of information that had been unlawfully obtained.

The Duke of Sussex is set to divulge intimate details of his past romantic relationships prior to his marriage to Meghan, as he assumes the unprecedented role of the first senior royal to provide testimony in a court of law in over a century.

Since quitting Royal life Prince Harry has moved to LA with his wife, Meghan
Since quitting Royal life Prince Harry has moved to LA with his wife, Meghan. Picture: Getty

Taking legal action against the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Harry alleges that he and his brother, the Prince of Wales, their late mother Diana, and their father the King, fell prey to illicit information-gathering methods.

The Duke holds newspapers accountable for inflicting "severe bouts of depression and paranoia" that ultimately contributed to the disintegration of his relationship with Chelsy Davy, 37, whom he encountered during her schooling days.

According to his claims, the intrusion by the media led Davy to conclude that a life within the royal family was unsuitable for her, a decision that proved deeply distressing for Harry at the time.

The Duke of Sussex was expected to arrive at court on Monday but his lawyers told the court he will not appear until Tuesday, when he is due to face cross-examination from MGN's barrister.

David Sherborne, representing the duke and the other claimants, said as the hearing began on Monday that Harry had flown to the UK from Los Angeles in the US last night, as he was celebrating his daughter Lilibet's second birthday on Sunday.

Mr Justice Fancourt, the judge hearing the case, said he was "a little surprised" to hear the duke would not be attending court on Monday.

The judge said he gave a direction earlier in the trial that witnesses should be available the day before their evidence was due to be heard in case the legal teams' opening speeches ran short.

Andrew Green KC, for MGN, said he wished to have at least a day and a half to cross-examine the duke and was "deeply troubled" he would not be attending before Tuesday, which may lead to "wasted time" on Monday afternoon.

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This lawsuit is one of six cases initiated by Harry against the British media and government. In March, he appeared at the High Court for a preliminary hearing regarding his separate claim against the Daily Mail's publisher.

This week, a conservative think-tank will argue in a Washington DC court that the US government should release Harry's immigration file due to revelations in his memoir, titled "Spare," concerning his past drug use.

Since quitting as a working member of the royal family, Harry, 38, currently lives in California with his wife, Meghan Markle, 41, and their children, four-year-old Archie and two-year-old Lilibet, who celebrated her second birthday on Sunday.

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The Duke alleges that he fell victim to voicemail hacking, "blagging," and inquiries conducted by private investigators.

He claims that approximately 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 were based on information obtained through unlawful means. Thirty-three of these articles, with headlines such as "Harry's cocaine, Ecstasy and GHB parties," "Harry is a Chelsy fan," "Harry's girl 'to dump him'," and "He just loves boozing & army. She is fed up & is heading home," have been selected for consideration during the trial.

Chelsy Davy and Prince Harry not looking happy to be photographed as they make their way hastily to Raffles nightclub, Chelsea (2007 File Photo)
Chelsy Davy and Prince Harry not looking happy to be photographed as they make their way hastily to Raffles nightclub, Chelsea (2007 File Photo). Picture: Alamy

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Andrew Green, KC, representing MGN, informed the court that numerous stories published about the prince were derived from information disclosed by or on behalf of royal households or members of the royal family.

During the proceedings, Harry is anticipated to face questioning regarding his association with former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who allegedly plays a central role in the allegations of hacking and the use of private investigators.

The court was informed that Morgan engaged in "drinking sessions" with Mark Bolland, the King's spokesperson at the time. Morgan, 58, denies involvement in phone hacking and has criticized Harry for relentlessly and cynically intruding upon the royal family's privacy for substantial financial gain, while propagating falsehoods about them.

MGN has conceded that a private investigator was paid £75 by the Sunday People to gather information on Harry's conduct at Chinawhite, a prominent celebrity nightclub in London's Soho district, back in 2004.

MGN acknowledges Harry's entitlement to compensation but interestingly notes that he has not pursued a claim regarding the article in question.

The trial is being conducted at the Rolls Building, inaugurated by the late Queen in 2011.

Harry's testimony marks the first instance in over a century of a senior royal providing evidence in court, since the Baccarat scandal of 1890 when a defamation case was brought forth by a card player accused of cheating the Prince of Wales, who later ascended to the throne as Edward VII.

In 2002, the Princess Royal faced charges under the Dangerous Dogs Act after two children were bitten in Windsor Great Park. However, she pleaded guilty and did not provide testimony.

The trial also includes representative cases involving Michael Turner, known for his portrayal of Kevin Webster, and Nikki Sanderson, who portrays Candice Stowe, both actors from the television series Coronation Street, as well as Fiona Wightman, the former wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.

MGN maintains that its board members at the time had no knowledge of such activities and argues that there is either no evidence or insufficient evidence of voicemail interception in any of the four claims.

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