Harry launched legal against MGN after bumping into barrister in France

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The Duke of Sussex launched his hacking legal action against the publisher of the Daily Mirror after bumping into a barrister to the rich and famous in France.

Harry told the High Court he had a chance meeting in 2018 with David Sherborne, who is representing the duke in his individual claim against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

Mr Sherborne’s clients have included Diana, Princess of Wales, Sir Elton John, Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, former prime minister Sir Tony Blair, and in the Wagatha Christie trial, Colleen Rooney.

MGN phone hacking trial
David Sherborne arrives at the Rolls Buildings in central London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The duke said: “I think it was a discussion about somehow how to find a way to put the abuse, intrusion and hate that was coming towards me and my wife and seeing if there was any way to find a different course of action without relying on the institution’s way.”

Andrew Green KC, for MGN, asked him: “When did you first go to solicitors to seek advice about a possible claim against MGN?”

Harry, giving evidence on his second day in the witness box, replied: “I didn’t go to them. I bumped into Mr Sherborne in France… it’s in my book.”

The duke said he believed the encounter was around 2018.

Associated Newspapers privacy case
Harry wrote in his book that he met a barrister with extensive knowledge of phone hacking cases through Sir Elton John (Aaron Chown/PA)

In the excerpt, which was not presented or read to the court, Harry wrote that the barrister was “a lovely fellow who knew more about the phone-hacking scandal than anyone I’d ever met” and who suggested the duke hire his own lawyer.

Sir Elton settled a phone-hacking claim against News Group Newspapers (NGN) in 2019, and is part of a current joint claim brought by Harry and others, represented by Mr Sherborne, over alleged unlawful information gathering at Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL).

Mr Green KC suggested it was not concern over a specific MGN story that led the duke to seek legal advice, with Harry agreeing.

The barrister asked: “So prior to bumping into Mr Sherborne in France, you hadn’t sought advice from lawyers about whether you had a claim against the Mirror Group?”

The duke said: “No. Nothing at all.”

Harry replied: “No, I was never shown anything.” He added that it was “all contained within the palace and even if I had I wouldn’t have been allowed” to make a complaint.

Mr Green suggested the duke had never been able to identify any story in an MGN newspaper which was written as a result of a voicemail message on his phone.

“That’s a question for my legal team … but I believe phone hacking started at the Mirror Group,” Harry responded.

“There is hard evidence to suggest an incredible amount of suspiciousness and I believe that burner phones were used extensively.”

MGN phone hacking trial
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of the Duke of Sussex (right) being cross examined by Andrew Green KC (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The duke, 38, is suing MGN for damages, claiming journalists at the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

He alleges that about 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 by MGN titles contained information gathered using unlawful methods, and 33 have been selected to be considered at the trial.

MGN is contesting his claim and has either denied or not admitted that articles about Harry being examined at the trial involved phone hacking or unlawful activity.

Harry started legal proceedings against MGN in 2019.

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