Prince Harry arrived at London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Monday for the first hearing in a high-profile privacy case against a major British newspaper group.
His surprise appearance, walking briskly, smiling and buttoning his coat, marked the start of the case launched last year against Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail, over alleged phone tapping and other breaches of privacy.
As well as Harry, the case involves seven high-profile figures including the singer Elton John and his husband, filmmaker David Furnish, actors Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost, and Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.
The individuals had become aware of “highly distressing” evidence revealing they had been victims of breaches of privacy by Associated Newspapers, the law firm Hamlins said in a statement in October, according to Reuters.
It said the breaches included placing listening devices inside people’s cars and homes, commissioning the bugging of live, private telephone calls, payments to police officials for sensitive information, and impersonating individuals to obtain medical records.
Associated Newspapers, which also publishes The Mail on Sunday and the Mail Online, said it “utterly and unambiguously” denied the allegations.
Legal restrictions requested by the newspaper group mean specific details of the allegations have not been made public so far.
Harry’s appearance in London comes amid feverish tabloid interest in him and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. While Harry, King Charles and Princess Diana’s younger son, had always been the subject of relentless coverage, this intensified after his engagement and marriage.
According to Harry and Meghan, the scrutiny and the lack of protection and defense against it on the part of other royals and courtiers, prompted their retreat from royal life. The two lost their publicly-funded protection by the United Kingdom’s police when they stepped down as senior working royals and moved to North America in 2020.
The British royal family faced renewed scrutiny in January when Harry published a tell-all memoir — “Spare” — in which he revealed he took illegal drugs at 17, begged his father not to remarry, and killed 25 Taliban fighters while serving in the British army.
Monday’s hearing comes after Harry asked a judge earlier this month to rule that the Mail on Sunday libeled him with an article about his quest for police protection when he and his family visit the U.K., according to The Associated Press.
The article in question alleged he tried to hush up his separate legal challenge over the British government’s refusal to let him pay for police security.
Harry was not in court for the earlier meeting.
His lawyers have said he is reluctant to bring the couple’s children — Prince Archie, who is almost 4, and Princess Lilibet, nearly 2 — to the U.K., saying Harry and Meghan feared for their family’s safety.
Aina J. Khan
Aina J. Khan is a freelance reporter with NBC News.