The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, has submitted a bid to the High Court to reference a purported “confidential pact” between Buckingham Palace and tabloid publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN) in his lawsuit alleging unlawful information gathering. Harry claims that he was targeted by journalists and private investigators employed by The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World, both of which are owned by NGN.
During an initial hearing in April, NGN requested that the judge dismiss the claims made by Harry and actor Hugh Grant, asserting they were filed too late. However, Mr. Justice Fancourt ruled earlier that Grant’s lawsuit, except for allegations linked to phone hacking, could proceed to trial.
Harry’s legal team counters NGN’s challenge, asserting that it is an attempt to circumvent the alleged “secret pact” between the royal family and the publisher, which was allegedly made known to the Duke in 2012. NGN denies the existence of such an agreement and refutes any allegations of unlawful activity at The Sun.
A hearing in London is set for Wednesday, where Mr. Justice Fancourt will determine if Harry can amend his case to include his claims of a confidential agreement.
Hugh Grant, 62, has lodged a similar lawsuit against NGN specifically in relation to The Sun, having previously settled a claim with the publisher in 2012 about the News Of The World. It was ruled in May that Mr. Grant’s claims over alleged illegal information gathering, aside from phone hacking allegations, can proceed to a trial in January.
During a three-day hearing in April, NGN’s lawyers contended that both Harry and Grant were directly involved in the allegations against the publisher and should have realized earlier that they had potential claims for damages.
Harry’s lawyers contend that while Harry was aware of potentially illegal activity in 2012, he did not believe it was connected to The Sun, and a “secret pact” with the royal family and high-ranking NGN executives prevented him from filing a lawsuit.
David Sherborne, Harry’s barrister, submitted in written statements that the late Queen was involved in the “discussions and authorization” of the agreement, which stipulated that royal family members would not initiate claims against NGN until after the hacking litigation concluded.
NGN’s Anthony Hudson refutes the existence of any such secret agreement. A decision by Mr Justice Fancourt on the “secret agreement” issue will influence whether Harry’s claims can proceed to trial.
Correspondences from 2017 and 2018 between the late Queen’s then-director of communications Sally Osman, Robert Thomson, and Rebekah Brooks are said to indicate such an agreement. Both Brooks and Thomson are executives of News UK and News Corp respectively, parent companies of NGN owned by Rupert Murdoch.
NGN has previously settled several claims related to the phone-hacking scandal involving the News Of The World, which shut down in 2011, but has consistently denied that any illicit information gathering took place at The Sun. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:30 am on Wednesday.