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Prince Harry’s Absence as Court Case Against Newspaper Group Commences ‘Surprises’ Judge

Stay up to date with the latest developments as Prince Harry’s absence becomes apparent during the court case against a newspaper group.

Prince Harry's 'Spare' book.

The absence of Prince Harry from the High Court proceedings raised eyebrows, particularly among the legal teams involved in the case. Mr. Justice Fancourt, the judge presiding over the trial, expressed his surprise at the duke’s decision not to attend court on the designated day.

He had previously issued a direction that witnesses should be available the day before their evidence was scheduled to be heard in case the opening speeches concluded earlier than anticipated.

Prince Harry’s lawyer, David Sherborne, explained that the duke had flown from Los Angeles to the UK the previous night to celebrate his daughter Lilibet’s birthday, which took place on Sunday. As a result, he would not be able to attend court until Tuesday, when he was due to face cross-examination from MGN’s barrister.

Andrew Green KC, representing MGN, expressed his concern over the delay in Prince Harry’s appearance, stating that he had planned to have at least a day and a half for cross-examination. The postponement could potentially result in wasted time on Monday afternoon.

The duke’s lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers alleges that journalists associated with MGN engaged in various illicit methods to gather information, including phone hacking, deception, and the use of private investigators for unlawful activities. Prince Harry claims that around 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 contained unlawfully obtained information, and 33 of these articles have been selected for consideration in the trial.

MGN, the publisher of Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and Sunday People, contest the allegations of Prince Harry and other claimants involved in the trial. The publisher has either denied or not admitted to the claims, arguing that some of the claimants have initiated their legal action too late.

Prince Harry’s court appearance marks a rare instance of a senior member of the royal family personally appearing in court proceedings. The last time such an occurrence occurred was in 2002 when the Princess Royal pleaded guilty to a charge under the Dangerous Dogs Act following an incident involving her pet biting two children in Windsor Great Park.

On the first day of the trial, MGN’s lawyers offered an unreserved apology to Prince Harry for one specific instance of unlawful information gathering. They acknowledged that a private investigator instructed by an MGN journalist had unlawfully gathered information about Harry’s activities at a nightclub in February 2004. MGN expressed its acceptance that Prince Harry is entitled to appropriate compensation for this incident.

The trial, which commenced in May, also includes three other representative claimants: Coronation Street actor Michael Turner, former Coronation Street actress Nikki Sanderson, and comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman. MGN denies voicemail interception in all four cases and asserts that there is either no evidence or insufficient evidence to support such allegations.

As the trial progresses, the focus remains on the allegations of unlawful information gathering by MGN journalists and the impact it may have had on the claimants involved. The court will assess the evidence presented and determine the merits of the claims made by Prince Harry and the other representatives.

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