Prince Harry’s Expanded Privacy Lawsuit Rejected; Judge Rules in Tabloid’s Favor


In a defining moment for royal privacy concerns, Prince Harry confronted his ongoing contention with British tabloids. However, the Duke of Sussex soon found himself embroiled in an uphill legal battle. On Tuesday, a London judge ruled in favor of the Sun tabloid’s publisher, decreeing that the prince could not expand his privacy lawsuit to include additional charges that magnate Rupert Murdoch and other executives conspired to hide and destroy evidence of unlawful information mining.

Timothy Fancourt, the presiding judge from the High Court, conceded partially to Prince Harry’s attempts to intensify his defense, allowing him to attack others he deemed culpable. This included journalists and private investigators who Harry and the other complainants alleged to have employed unscrupulous means to obtain scoops. Nevertheless, the judge rejected the Prince’s expansion of the case timeline, excluding claims pertaining to eavesdropping on his late mother Princess Diana during 1994 and 1995, and violating the privacy of his present wife, actor Meghan Markle, in 2016.

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Judge Fancourt further invalidated the prince’s allegations, arguing that Rupert Murdoch’s supposed ignorance to the situation was irrelevant to the veracity of claims against News Group Newspapers (NGN). In his ruling, the judge cited Murdoch’s son James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, the former editor at News of the World and The Sun, as influential figures already implicated in the charges.

Detracting from Prince Harry’s pursuit of justice, Fancourt accused the claimants of targeting high-profile individuals merely to advance a political agenda. The decidedly neutral judge assessed the situation, noting that aiming at the man at the top would not influence the potential finding that the senior executives at play were directly implicated.

Brooks now holds the position of CEO at News UK, a division within News Corp. handling various esteemed publications. James Murdoch had since left his familial holdings at News Corp in 2020. Rupert Murdoch himself, standing at an impressive 93 years old, had been executive chairman at News Corp., even directing its subsidiary News International, renamed News UK, which hovered above NGN when News of the World collapsed. Since then, Murdoch retreated from his leadership of both Fox News’ parent company and News Corp last fall.

Despite the mixed results in court, both parties essentially deemed the ruling a victory in anticipation of the impending trial next year. Fancourt eventually assessed a blended triumph, with the defense securing an edge on the debated issues. The resultant costs burdened the Prince and his co-claimants, forcing them to pay one-third of NGN’s expenses in addressing the proposed amendments.

News Group officially commended the ruling, confirming the exclusion of fresh “wide-ranging” and irrelevant allegations. The claimants expressed pleasure in the judge’s decision to uphold many contested amendments.

Back in 2011, NGN offered a comprehensive apology to the victims of voicemail interception directed by News of the World, which subsequently shut its operations following a significant phone hacking scandal. The company admitted to settling 1,300 claims for its constituents. However, The Sun has yet to accept any liability.

Flashbacks to the three-day hearing in March included accusations against NGN by actor Hugh Grant, who also alleged to be a victim of unethical snooping. He declared his reluctant acceptance of a considerable settlement sum due to the possibility of bearing an overwhelming legal bill, despite potentially winning at trial. A similar case ensues with the Daily Mail’s proprietor, and David Sherborne, Attorney, hints that Harry might, too, settle for a similar reason.

Prince Harry already celebrated a victory last year against Mirror Group Newspapers when his phone hacking allegations were corroborated by Fancourt, dubbing the violation “widespread and habitual.” Following the court’s judgment, the Prince brokered a settlement that incorporated his legal fees.