Prince Harry’s landline calls were bugged by Murdoch papers: Lawyers

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Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid papers bugged Prince Harry’s landline phones and accessed the messages on the pager of his late mother Princess Diana, the British royal’s legal team told London’s High Court on Thursday.

Harry, the younger son of King Charles and the late Princess Diana, and more than 40 others are suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) over accusations of unlawful activities by journalists and private investigators on its tabloids, the Sun and the now-defunct News of the World, from the mid-1990s until 2016.

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In a ruling last July, Judge Timothy Fancourt said Harry could take his claims of unlawful information gathering to trial, but his allegations of decades-old mobile phone hacking were thrown out for being filed too late.

In a hearing at the High Court on Thursday, Harry’s lawyers sought to amend his lawsuit in light of that ruling, and to add other, new allegations.

These include further claims that the Sun ordered private investigators to target his then girlfriend and now wife Meghan in 2016, and accusations of widespread bugging of his calls.

“The claimant also brings a claim and seeks relief in relation to the interception of landline calls, the interception of calls from cordless phones and analogue mobile calls, and the interception of landline voicemails, as distinct from phone hacking,” his lawyers’ said in court documents.

The claim also includes allegations relating to Diana who “was under close surveillance and her calls were being unlawfully intercepted by (NGN), which was known about by its editors and senior executives.”

NGN is objecting to the addition of what it called a “huge number of new allegations” for numerous reasons including that they were made too late, lacked evidence, and related to phone-hacking claims which had already been dismissed.

“They cover time periods falling outside the scope of the current pleading and the generic statements of case, and in many cases relate to allegations which have been well-publicized for as long as 30 years,” NGN’s lawyers said in court filings.

NGN’s lawyer Anthony Hudson also said it was “unlikely” Harry’s case could be heard at a trial expected to begin in January next year if his new allegations were included.

In 2011, NGN apologized for widespread phone-hacking by journalists at the News of the World, which Murdoch shut down following a public backlash. NGN has since settled more than 1,300 claims but the group has always rejected allegations of any wrongdoing by Sun staff.

On Wednesday, lawyers for Harry and the other claimants told the court that Murdoch and other senior executives were involved in the cover-up of widespread wrongdoing, and they had given false evidence to courts, parliament and a public inquiry.

NGN says some claimants are simply using the lawsuits as a means to attack the tabloid press, and that allegations against its current and former staff were “a scurrilous and cynical attack on their integrity.”

Since stepping down from royal duties in 2020 to move to California, Harry has turned his focus onto battling the British press which he says has intruded into his private life since he was a child, spreading lies about him and those close to him.

In December he won a lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspaper over allegations of phone-hacking and unlawful activities, with the judge agreeing senior figures had been aware of what had been going on.

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