Tue, 16 May 2023 at 8:22 pm BST
It is perhaps no wonder the Duke of Sussex spent so little time at the Coronation when you consider just how many people he is simultaneously suing right now.
Litigation costs time and money – and while Prince Harry may have more of both on his hands after stepping down as a “working” royal and moving to America in 2020, his life now appears to be dominated by legal action.
On Tuesday, the Duke’s lawyers were back in the High Court, this time arguing it was wrong for the Home Office to deny him the right to pay privately for his Metropolitan Police bodyguards when he is back in the UK.
Having already launched a claim challenging the decision to no longer give him the “same degree” of personal protective security that he had when he was a fully-fledged member of the monarchy, Harry, 38, is now trying to bring a second lawsuit against the Home Office for denying him the right to reimburse the taxpayer.
The case is one of five the father of two is pursuing through the civil court in London.
While his lawyers were arguing the toss with the Home Office in one courtroom, Harry’s barrister David Sherborne was appearing in another – continuing to lead his case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), publishers of the Daily and Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, for unlawful information gathering, including phone hacking.
It came after Omid Scobie, author of Finding Freedom – a hagiography of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – told the trial on Monday that he was asked to hack phones while doing work experience at the Sunday People, which is owned by MGN, and overheard Piers Morgan, the Daily Mirror’s former editor, being told that a story about Kylie Minogue had come from voicemail messages.
Last Wednesday, on the first day of what is expected to be a seven-week trial, Harry’s written witness statement was submitted to the court in which he blamed MGN for the end of his relationship with Chelsy Davy. He also claimed the King, Princess Diana and the Prince and Princess of Wales were targeted by private investigators who were paid a total of more than £10 million by the newspaper group.
In a written submission, MGN said it “unreservedly apologises” for one instance of unlawful information gathering against Harry and said that the legal challenge brought by the Duke “warrants compensation”. Yet Harry appears determined to have his day in court, and is due to appear in person in June.
Meanwhile, the Duke is also suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), publishers of The Sun and The Sun on Sunday – which replaced the defunct News of the World – for unlawful information gathering.
Last month, he submitted a 31-page witness statement containing a series of incendiary claims – including the suggestion that a “secret agreement” was struck between the Royal Household and Rupert Murdoch’s empire over phone hacking in order to “smooth the way” for Camilla to become Queen Consort.
He also revealed that his brother, Prince William, had secretly received a large compensation payout from the company in 2020, thought to be around £1 million.
Claiming he wanted to “save journalism as a profession”, Harry described the tabloid press as the “mothership of online trolling” and claimed he had been left out of internal palace conversations about phone hacking because he was “considered to be something of a ‘hot head’”.
The Duke is also suing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), publishers of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, on two fronts – for illegal information gathering and for publishing what he claims was a libellous story about his case against the Home Office in February 2022 under the headline: “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight with the government over police bodyguards a secret… then – just minutes after the story broke – his PR machine tried to put a positive spin on the dispute.”
All five cases are ongoing and it is not known when they will conclude or what the outcomes will be.
Yet having readily divulged even more personal information in his ongoing quest to protect his privacy, even if he wins in court, Harry may end up losing in the long run.
Contrary to suggestions his lawyers are operating on a “no win, no fee basis”, Harry is already wracking up a considerable legal bill – and may not recoup all of his costs, even if he is victorious.
His wife Meghan only had 90 per cent of her estimated £1 million costs covered when she won her claim against the Mail on Sunday for breach of privacy and copyright in January 2022.
If the Duke has spent five times that amount on five separate claims then he still potentially faces losing around £500,000, even if he wins on all counts.
Like the Duchess, Harry will argue the legal action is more about principles than money – but then he risks inviting criticism that he can only afford to engage in what some may regard as a self-indulgent war against the press, because he is a multi-millionaire with nothing better to do than avenge his critics.
With other phone hacking victims – including his brother – having settled out of court, some may question the wisdom of Harry airing yet more dirty linen in public when it only seems to serve to generate more headlines for the very newspapers he is trying to bring to task.
As with Spare, his warts-and-all autobiography, he also potentially faces the charge of invading other people’s privacy for his own gain, by continuing to pore over the intimate details of his relationships with his nearest and dearest.
A win against the Home Office may guarantee Harry gets armed bodyguards when he next visits the UK, but it may seem a pyrrhic victory when the chances of him receiving a warm welcome from the royals appear to be diminishing with every court revelation.