Prince Harry says tabloids intercepted phone calls of parents


LONDON — LONDON (AP) — Prince Harry alleged Thursday that the publisher of The Sun tabloid unlawfully intercepted phone calls of his late mother, Princess Diana, and father, now King Charles III, as he sought to expand his privacy invasion lawsuit against News Group Newspapers.

The Duke of Sussex is seeking permission during a three-day hearing in the High Court to allow the new claims to be added to his ongoing litigation after evidence surfaced largely through materials turned over by NGN, a subsidiary of the media empire built by Rupert Murdoch, his lawyer said.

Attorney David Sherborne said that the eavesdropping on Diana, her then-estranged husband, Charles, Prince of Wales at the time, and his then paramour, Camilla Parker Bowles, who is now Queen Camilla, inevitably revealed private information about Harry as early as age 9.

Diana was suspicious she was being followed and her calls were being listened to, the amended complaint said. Articles in The Sun and now-defunct News of the World referred to conversations Diana had with close confidants and show that journalists and paparazzi had inside knowledge where she was going to be, including her therapy sessions.

“The defendant’s newspapers described his late mother’s concerns as ’paranoid delusions,’ when the true position was that she was under close surveillance and her calls were being unlawfully intercepted by (NGN), which was known about by its editors and senior executives,” Sherborne said in court papers.

The new claims in Harry’s case follow allegations his lawyer raised Wednesday in the High Court that implicated Murdoch for taking part in the cover-up of unlawful information gathering at his newspapers or that he had “at the very least turned a blind eye” to it.

Harry is one of 45 claimants, including actor Hugh Grant and filmmaker Guy Ritchie, alleging that between 1994 and 2016 News Group journalists violated their privacy through widespread unlawful activity that included intercepting voicemails, tapping phones, bugging cars and using deception to access confidential information.

The claims also allege that executives lied about the wrongdoing and oversaw an effort to delete millions of emails and “buy” the silence of those who might tell the truth about what occurred.

Defense lawyer Anthony Hudson, who said the new allegations “appear to be designed to grab headlines,” said Harry waited too long to bring the new claims. He also said the prince hadn’t followed court procedure for doing so and that the new allegations were a distraction from issues in the case that is tentatively scheduled for trial in January.

NGN issued a statement Wednesday saying that the new allegations amounted to “unjustified inferences in a scurrilous and cynical attack” on former journalists, staff and senior executives at News International, now News UK, the parent of NGN.

Judge Timothy Fancourt, who is expected to rule later on the application to amend the lawsuit, previously rejected News Group’s efforts to toss out the case on the grounds that it was brought beyond the six-year limitation period.

But the judge did side with the newspaper in ruling that Harry and Grant could not pursue claims that journalists had eavesdropped on their voicemails because news of the so-called phone hacking scandal was so widespread they should have had knowledge of the activity to file lawsuits within the deadline.

Harry’s lawsuit against News Group Newspapers is one of three he’s brought against Britain’s biggest tabloids over alleged unlawful activity carried out by journalists and private investigators they hired that came to light after a phone hacking scandal erupted at News of the World in 2011.

Harry, 39, the younger son of King Charles III, has used the courts in his crusade against the press that is the source of a host of personal grievances.

He blames the news media for the death of his mother, who was killed in a car wreck while being pursued by paparazzi. He also said unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media were one of the reasons he and his biracial wife, former actor Meghan Markle, moved to the U.S.

His new claims include allegations The Sun hired a private investigator to dig up personal information on Meghan, including her Social Security number, mobile phone number and details about her family.

In December, Harry’s legal efforts paid off when Fancourt found phone hacking at Mirror Group Newspapers was “widespread and habitual.” In addition to a court judgment, he recently settled remaining allegations that included his legal fees. The total sum wasn’t announced, but he was due to receive an interim payment of 400,000 pounds ($508,000).

He has another case pending against the owner of the Daily Mail.


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