Prince Harry wins phone hacking case: What to know about bombshell ruling

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Prince Harry won his phone hacking case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) Friday, a landmark. decision when it comes to the history of the tabloid press in Britain.

Judge Timothy Fancourt ruled that journalists and private investigators employed by tabloid newspaper The Daily Mirror hacked the prince’s phone and intruded on his privacy by way of spying on him unlawfully. 

“Today is a great day for truth, as well as accountability,” Harry said in a statement read by his lawyer outside court, according to The Associated Press. “I’ve been told that slaying dragons will get you burned. But in light of today’s victory and the importance of doing what is needed for a free and honest press, it is a worthwhile price to pay.”

“The mission continues,” he added.

Here’s what you need to know about what Harry’s case, and why it matters:

Harry’s case

Prince Harry, along with 100 others, sued MGN and and the Sunday People tabloids in 2019, accusing them of knowingly engaging in phone hacking and illegal deception on an “industrial scale” between 1991 and 2011.

The other prosecutors in the case include actors, sports stars, celebrities and others with connections, according to Reuters.

The alienated younger son of King Charles III was seeking 440,000 pounds — or $560,000 — in damages.

Harry was selected as one of four test cases for the trial which began last May.

In June, the Duke of Sussex appeared in court alleging the tabloids employed journalists to spy on him, including eavesdropping on voicemails and hiring private investigators to look into him, his family and other associates.

MGN, which has already paid more than $127 million in other phone hacking lawsuits, denied any wrongdoing in Prince Harry’s case. The group argued they used “legitimate” reporting methods to get information on the prince. 

The ruling

The judge agreed with Harry that phone hacking was “widespread and habitual” at MGN. In his 386-page ruling handed down, he said Fancourt said it was apparent that executives at the papers covered it up.

Harry was awarded 140,000 pounds — or $180,000 — in damages in the case for his distress.

“They turned a blind eye to what was going on and positively concealed it,” Fancourt said in his decision. “Had the illegal conduct been stopped, the misuse of the duke’s private information would have ended much sooner.”

Fancourt, however, said the group was “not responsible for all of the unlawful activity directed at the duke.”

The landmark case could bolster the claims of others who have sued the company — and. that could cost the Mirror Group a lot more. 

What’s next?

Those who have come into the sights of tabloids have often settled out of court, but Harry wanted to go before a judge.

He has two other suits against newspaper publishers, with the one against the Mirror Group to go to a full trial.

What is phone hacking?

Phone hacking is calling a number and putting in 0000 to try and attain their voice messages — but it hasn’t always worked.

In his ruling Friday, Fancourt said that the occurrence of phone hacking was “habitual” at Mirror newspapers stretching back to 1998, going on until at least 2011.

Most people originally learned about phone hacking in 2001, when the royal editor of News of the World and a private investigation were jailed because they eavesdropped on Prince William and others on royal aides’ phones.

News of the World’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, dismissed the aforementioned actions as the result of rogue employees. However, following that, it came out that the paper had hacked the phone of a 13-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered.

Backlash forced the media mogul to shut down the over 100-year-old paper.

After that, the government created a public inquiry headed up by a judge into media ethics. It looked into the ties between Britain’s political, media and police.

Judge Brian Levison recommended that there should be a press watchdog, with government regulation behind it. Part of Levison’s findings have been implemented. 

The Associated Press contributed. 

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