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Prince Harry gets OK to use key evidence in phone hacking case against Daily Mail publisher

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LA Post: Prince Harry gets OK to use key evidence in phone hacking case against Daily Mail publisher
AP
BRIAN MELLEY
March 01, 2024

LONDON (AP) — Prince Harry scored a tactical victory in his battles with British tabloids Friday when government ministers said he could use confidential documents that show payments by the publisher of the Daily Mail to private investigators who allegedly snooped on him and several celebrities.

The Duke of Sussex, Elton John, Elizabeth Hurley and others claim that Associated Newspapers Ltd. hacked their phones or used other unlawful means, such as bugging and other electronic surveillance to spy on them.

Justice Matthew Nicklin in November had rejected the newspapers' effort to throw out the case, but his ruling also dealt a blow to Harry and the others.

Ledgers showing payments to private eyes that had been leaked to Harry's legal team from a government inquiry into phone hacking could only be used with the newspapers' permission or by an order from the judge who oversaw the 2011-12 probe or the government ministers who had ordered the inquiry, Nicklin said.

Associated Newspapers, which firmly denies the allegations and called them preposterous, refused to turn over the documents and opposed the government releasing them.

In a joint statement Friday by the home and culture secretaries — the departments that had ordered the Leveson Inquiry into press standards — said the documents could be used in the court case.

“In our judgment, the public interest in promoting the just, speedy and economic resolution of the proceedings outweighs the countervailing public interests,” the statement said.

Associated Newspapers said it would not comment on the decision.

The development comes as Harry's flurry of litigation is winding down with trials due in the case against ANL and another case alongside Hugh Grant that makes similar allegations against the publisher of The Sun.

Harry won a big victory in December after a judge found phone hacking at Mirror Group Newspapers was “widespread and habitual.” After winning a judgment in court, he recently settled remaining allegations for all his legal fees. The total sum wasn't announced, but he was due to receive an interim payment of 400,000 pounds ($505,000).

Harry, 39, the younger son of King Charles III, has bucked family tradition by going to court in his crusade against the press and was the first senior royal in over a century to enter the witness box when he testified in the Mirror trial.

His luck, so far, in the hacking cases has proven more successful than three cases related to the government’s decision to strip him of his publicly funded protection detail in the U.K. after he quit working as a member of the royal family and moved to the U.S.

A judge ruled Wednesday that the government did not act irrationally or treat him unfairly when it decided to provide security on a case-by-case basis. Harry vowed to appeal.

He recently withdrew a libel case against the Daily Mail over an article that said he tried to hide his efforts to continue receiving government-funded security. He dropped the case after a judge ruled he was more likely to lose at trial, because the publisher could show that statements issued on his behalf were misleading and that the February 2022 article reflected an “honest opinion” and wasn’t libelous.

He could be faced with big legal bills in the cases that he has lost or dropped.

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