Home News Court rules Prince Harry can’t include Rupert Murdoch in lawsuit

Court rules Prince Harry can’t include Rupert Murdoch in lawsuit


Prince Harry suffered a setback in his long-running legal battle against British tabloids on Tuesday after the High Court dismissed charges that would have involved Rupert Murdoch over how Murdoch’s London newspapers mined his personal information and then withheld or destroyed the evidence. request. its.

Judge Timothy Fancourt ruled that lawyers for Harry and about 40 other plaintiffs cannot amend their lawsuit against News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, against Murdoch, the 93-year-old media tycoon who controls the company. Gram and other senior News Corp. executives.

“Plaintiffs on the plaintiff’s side want to shoot at ‘trophy’ targets, whether they are political issues or high-profile individuals,” Judge Fancourt declared in court. 284-page ruling. “This cannot be an end in itself. It will only have an impact on the courts if it is substantial and proportionate to the resolution of individual causes of action.”

“A trial,” he added, “is not an investigation.”

The judge also rejected Harry’s attempt to expand the time frame of the alleged illegal conduct to before 1996 and after 2011, saying his lawyers submitted the amendment too late. That rules out accusations against his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, or his wife, Meghan.

The case, due to go to trial in January, will mark one of the final chapters in a mammoth legal battle stemming from the phone-hacking scandal – which upended the British newspaper industry, triggering the closure of a major tabloid, the News of the World, and Leading to changes in journalistic practice.

Harry has been at the vanguard of that effort, filing a lawsuit against three publishers in London over what he calls a decades-long trespassing campaign.The lawsuit has resulted in some high-profile victories, including a judgment last December against the publisher of the Daily Mirror, which said Hacked his phone and use other illegal means to obtain their information.

But Harry also encountered setbacks. In July 2023, Judge Fancourt dismissed accusations that News Corp hacked into his phone between 1996 and 2011, arguing that his lawyers had waited too long to bring the case. The judge allowed Harry’s allegations of other illegal conduct, including hiring a private investigator, to proceed. On Tuesday, the judge noted that Harry had not yet removed the hacking allegations from his complaint and must do so before the trial begins.

News Corp said in a statement that the court “conclusively vindicated NGN’s position”. The company’s attorney, Anthony Hudson, argued that the plaintiffs were trying to involve Murdoch and other high-profile figures to make the case “a vehicle for a broader publicity campaign targeting the tabloid media.”

In 2011, Murdoch testified before parliament that he was not personally responsible for the hack given that he ran a multinational company with 53,000 employees. But he shut down the tabloid most closely associated with the hacking, the News of the World, and issued a contrite apology. In recent years, Murdoch has paid more attention to lawsuits arising from Fox News’ coverage of the aftermath of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

In explaining why he did not accept Harry’s amendment, the judge noted that a trial was set for a trial over allegations of a cover-up by Mr Murdoch’s “trusted lieutenants”, including his son James.Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News UK; and Will LewisA former news department executive, he is now publisher of the Washington Post.

The judge did allow plaintiffs’ attorneys to add Lewis’ name to a list of executives they claimed were involved in a plan to hide evidence of the hack by deleting files on Ms. Brooks’ computer. According to the amended complaint, the files were transferred to a USB drive that was either lost or unopened because it was encrypted.

News Corp noted that Ms Brooks was questioned about deleting emails during a 2014 criminal trial and was later cleared. Lewis helped deal with the hacking scandal but was never charged. He later served as chief executive of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and was named publisher of The Washington Post last November.

A spokesman for Mr Lewis declined to comment. In 2020, he tell the bbc The allegations of misconduct are “completely untrue”.

For Harry, who now lives in Montecito, California, and visits the UK only occasionally, the proceedings seem designed not only to win the case but also to put the tabloid media and its key players under harsh scrutiny.

In June last year, he testified against the Mirror Group in court, becoming the first senior member of the British royal family to testify since 1891. In 1891, Prince Albert Edward, Queen Victoria’s eldest son, testified against the syndicate at a baccarat game in which he was present.

In emotional testimony, Harry said a series of negative stories about him and his family had left him distrustful of even his closest friends. Many of the stories have focused on Harry’s relationship with ex-girlfriend Chelsea Davie, who he said had a tracking device found in her car.

In February, two months after his victory over the Mirror Group, he reach a settlement His remaining privacy claims are worth at least £400,000 ($508,000). The prince singled out Piers Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirror, who he said was “very aware of what is going on”. Mr Morgan, now a broadcaster, denies involvement in the hacking.

Harry also claimed that News Corp paid his brother, Prince William, a “significant amount of money” to resolve allegations that his phone had been hacked. He said the settlement was part of a “secret agreement” under which the family would delay legal claims against the company and avoid having to testify about embarrassing details in intercepted voicemails.

Neither News Corp nor Kensington Palace, where William’s office is located, confirmed the arrangement.

Judge Fancourt said he understood the motivations of lawyers wanting to bring Murdoch and other high-profile figures into the case. He likened it to investigative reporters looking for missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and said lawyers were playing the court as much as they were playing to the media.

“This is understandable in a sense, like the psychology of an investigative journalist or puzzle enthusiast,” he wrote. “But the question before the courts is different: What is required for a fair trial on individual claims?”

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