Harry brings Breach of Privacy cases to the fore once more

Matthew Howe  15-06-2023

Prince Harry spent several days at the beginning of this month in court, in connection with the phone-hacking case he is bringing against Mirror Group Newspapers.

The Prince is represented by David Sherborne, so-called ‘barrister to the stars’, who acted for Coleen Rooney and Johnny Depp respectively in high-profile cases last year.

Prince Harry, who submitted 148 newspaper articles in evidence that he claims are ‘suspicious’, believing them to be based on information obtained by illicit means, has now been cross-examined about 33 of these.

This is one of three cases Prince Harry is currently pursuing. Sherborne will also represent him, as well as Elton John and a number of other claimants, in breach of privacy cases against Associated Newspapers, parent company of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and Rupert Murdoch’s Sun.

Harry alleges that journalists at the three tabloids targeted him and those in his inner circle by illegally accessing his voicemail messages and using other illicit methods between 1996 and 2011.

Both companies deny the allegations and argue, with the Mirror Group, that the complainants have waited too long to bring their cases.

It was David Sherborne who successfully argued the landmark case in 2015 that created the backdrop to the current claims. That case resulted in total damages of £1.2m paid to eight victims of phone hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers. That ruling followed an admission and apology by the Mirror Group that “some years ago voicemails left on certain people’s phones were unlawfully accessed”.

In a 200-page judgment, Mr Justice Mann referred to the “enormity … of what happened”, allowing that a “generic case” could be made of systematic hacking over a period of years in the early 2000s, although specific call records and other data had been lost or destroyed. Since then the Mirror Group (now Reach plc) has paid an estimated £100m in out-of-court settlements and associated legal fees to victims of hacking.


Press Freedom and Breaches of Privacy

Freedom of the press is a pillar of democracy. As well as chronicling contemporary events, educating, and entertaining, the press is a platform for a diverse range of voices; it is the public’s watchdog, and activist. It is, however, necessarily bound by certain limitations. Today, these can be found in the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) Editors’ Code of Practice, which sets out the rules that newspapers and magazines regulated by IPSO have agreed to follow.

Clause 2 ii), for example, provides that ‘Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. [However,] In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so’, while Clause 10 i) states that ‘The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.’

While phone hacking may seem unlikely for most, other breaches of privacy or data are less so. The media must treat sensitive personal data, such as information about someone’s race or origin, political or religious beliefs, mental or physical health, sexual orientation, criminal or financial records, for example, with a higher degree of care.

If your personal information has been shared by a journalist without consent, there may be steps you can take to manage the situation and to protect your reputation.

Contact the team at Samuels for a discussion about how we can help you bring a claim for breach of your privacy.

Article credit: Lalla Merlin

mobile phone hacking privacy breach solicitors