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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Court instructed Prince Harry not to criticize the Queen for her hacking agreement with Murdoch's UK Group


According to his attorney, Prince Harry is not criticizing his late grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, or the British royal family in relation to a “secret agreement” with Rupert Murdoch's UK newspaper division.

Harry, the younger son of King Charles, is suing Murdoch's News Group Newspapers (NGN) for a number of claimed illegal actions carried out between the mid-1990s and 2016 on behalf of its tabloids, the Sun and the since-defunct News of the World.

This week, NGN, which has resolved more than a thousand phone-hacking complaints over the previous ten years, is attempting to have Harry's claim and a related one made by British actor Hugh Grant dismissed on the grounds that they should have acted sooner.

Harry claims, however, that he delayed filing a complaint because top NGN officials and Buckingham Palace reached an understanding to prevent humiliation.

Harry said in a witness statement that was made public on Tuesday that he tried to forward the case with the queen's support but was met with resistance from NGN and royal aides.

On Wednesday, Harry's attorney, David Sherborne, told the court that Harry delayed filing his claim because of an arrangement with NGN, which disputes its existence.

Sherborne said that while Harry stated in his witness testimony that he was informed his voicemails had been intercepted, “that was essentially dealt with by his family… and their solicitor,” in 2012, he was “told more” regarding phone hacking.

Sherborne said, “This is not a condemnation of the queen or his family. “He accepts it because that is how it was done. He had to, as he clarifies.

Sherborne stated that NGN “would have been stupid enough to go after his messages” and that Harry was “kept out of the loop” about phone hacking.

Harry said in his testimony that News Corp CEO Robert Thomson and Rebekah Brooks, who is now in charge of Murdoch's British subsidiary News UK, were in touch with the royal staff over his case.

If the matter proceeds to trial, according to Sherborne, “there will need to be evidence” from Brooks and Thomson on the covert arrangement.

According to Harry, NGN resolved his brother William's phone-hacking lawsuit in 2020 “for a huge sum of money… without any of the public being informed, and seemingly with some favorable deal in return for him going “quietly,” so to speak.”

William's office said that it could not comment on pending legal processes, and Buckingham Palace declined to make any comments. NGN has denied the existence of a “secret agreement” but has chosen to remain silent on whether it reached a settlement with William.

Harry is now pursuing four cases against British publishers in response to allegations made in his Netflix documentary and memoir, “Spare,” which claimed that tabloids engaged in widespread illegal activities and that his family had conspired with them.

If the court approves the trial's continuation, it is scheduled to begin in January after the preliminary hearing concludes on Thursday.

According to Sherborne, Harry, who now resides in California with his family, was not present in court but saw the proceedings through video connection.

Due to “unavoidable filming commitments,” Grant was also following the proceedings online, but on Thursday he intended to attend in person.


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