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Prince Harry: It would be injustice if court rules I’m not hacking victim

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By Michael Holden and Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) -Prince Harry said on Wednesday he would feel a sense of injustice if London’s High Court did not conclude he was a phone-hacking victim, as he completed more than eight hours giving evidence against a British tabloid newspaper group.

Harry, King Charles’ younger son, spent a day-and-a-half in the witness box being grilled over allegations he had been unlawfully targeted by Mirror Group Newspapers’ (MGN) titles for 15 years from 1996, when he was a child.

Asked by his lawyer David Sherborne about the experience of appearing in court in front of the world’s media, a clearly-emotional Harry exhaled deeply and replied: “It’s a lot.”

The prince and 100 others are suing MGN, the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, over allegations of phone-hacking and unlawful information-gathering between 1991 and 2011. They claim senior editors and executives at MGN knew about and approved of the wrongdoing.

The fifth-in-line to the throne had been selected as one of four test cases leading to him becoming the first senior British royal to appear in a witness box for more than 130 years on Tuesday. The last time was in 1891 when the future Edward VII was a witness in a slander trial.

When Harry returned on Wednesday, he was again focused and softly spoken, but more combative during sometimes testy exchanges with Andrew Green, MGN’s lawyer.

“If the court were to find that you were never hacked by any MGN journalist, would you be relieved or would you be disappointed?” Green asked the prince.

Harry replied: “I believe phone-hacking was on an industrial scale across at least three of the papers at the time and that is beyond doubt.

“To have a decision against me and any other people that come behind me with their claims, given that Mirror Group have accepted hacking, … yes, I would feel some injustice,” he said.

In response to Green’s suggestion that Harry wanted to have been a victim, the prince replied: “Nobody wants to be phone hacked.”

‘NO EVIDENCE’ HARRY WAS HACKED

MGN, now owned by Reach, has previously admitted its titles were involved in phone-hacking – the illegal interception of mobile voicemails – settling more than 600 claims, but Green has said there was no mobile phone data nor any shred of evidence to show Harry was a victim.

He argued that some of the personal information in stories published by the papers had come from, or was given with the consent of, senior Buckingham Palace aides, or was simply based of details already made public.

In reference to one article about him not being allowed to return to combat in Afghanistan, Harry said: “It is suspicious that so much is attributed to a royal source.”

In his lengthy written witness statement and in questioning, Harry has said the press had blood on its hands, destroyed his adolescence, ruined relationships with friends and girlfriends, sowed paranoia and mistrust, and incited hatred against his American wife Meghan.

He also broke royal protocol to say he believed the British government as well as the media had hit “rock bottom”, while his anger at suggestions that his mother, Princess Diana, was a victim of phone-hacking before her death in 1997 was also clear.

Green quizzed him in detail over 33 newspaper articles whose details Harry says were obtained unlawfully and many of which related to his relationship with former girlfriend Chelsy Davy.

Harry said a tracking device had been found on her car and that he believed intimate details about their break-up and arguments about him visiting a strip club had been obtained by phone-hacking, saying they had not shared details of their private lives.

‘HOORAY HARRY’

He described a 2007 article with the headline “Hooray Harry Dumped”, was “hurtful to say the least” and said it appeared to be “celebrating” the end of his relationship – which Green firmly denied.

The lawyer described some of the prince’s hacking allegations as “total speculation”, a phrase repeated by many papers in their critical coverage of his first day’s appearance.

“For my whole life, the press has misled me and covered up the wrongdoing, so to be sitting here in court knowing that the defence has the evidence in front of them and Mr Green suggesting I’m speculating, I’m not entirely sure what to say about that,” Harry said.

His evidence is only part of the seven-week trial that is due to conclude in June, with a verdict expected later in the year. After finishing, Harry did not immediately leave court but stayed to watch as his lawyer began to quiz the former Daily Mirror reporter who wrote 10 of the 33 articles in contention.

The lawsuit is just one of a number of lawsuits he has brought against tabloid groups, as he is also suing Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers and Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail.

“I’m quite busy with other litigation,” he remarked with a smile during an exchange with Green.

Asked by the lawyer if he had begun the action against MGN after a chance meeting with Sherborne, he said: “I think it was a discussion on how to somehow find a way to stop the abuse, intrusion and hate that was coming towards me and my wife and seeing if there was any other way.”

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Alex Richardson)

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