Editor’s Note: This is a version of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
The British royal family can be a litigious bunch, but perhaps no member is more so than the Duke of Sussex.
Prince Harry’s tempestuous history with the media is well documented at this point. His memoir offered insight into his deep resentment of the tabloid press and it’s no secret he holds them complicit in his mother’s premature death.
The 39-year-old royal has taken it upon himself to fight for a more “responsible media,” as he once put it, and is currently engaged in a number of legal battles in the United Kingdom.
Here’s a rundown of his ongoing and recent civil litigation against media outlets:
Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL)
This challenge is a joint endeavor with several high-profile individuals, including Elton John and his husband, David Furnish.
Campaigner Doreen Lawrence, actress and model Elizabeth Hurley, actress Sadie Frost and former politician Simon Hughes make up the rest of the claimants. The group brought the case in October 2022 and alleged that ANL, which publishes titles including the Daily Mail and MailOnline, engaged in various types of criminal activity to obtain information about individuals in the group. ANL has denied any wrongdoing.
The group accused ANL of hiring private investigators to plant listening devices in homes and cars and record private calls. The publisher has also denied allegations that it would pay corrupt police officials for inside information, engage in impersonation and deception to obtain medical records, and would hack into bank accounts and financial transactions by “illicit means and manipulation.”
Britain’s High Court ruled in November that the case over alleged unlawful information gathering could proceed despite ANL’s attempts to have it dismissed without trial on the basis that it was brought too late. Justice Matthew Nicklin said ANL failed to deliver a “knockout blow” to any of the claims brought by the claimants.
Second Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) lawsuit
The article was published with 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.”
In July 2022, a High Court judge found parts of the article were defamatory. ANL firmly contested the claim, with lawyers for the publisher arguing the report was an “honest opinion” that did not cause “serious harm” to his reputation.
In December, Justice Nicklin refused a bid from Harry’s legal team to strike out ANL’s “honest opinion” defense or grant a decision in their client’s favor without a trial. Explaining his decision, the judge said “the Defendant has a real prospect of demonstrating, at trial,” that statements issued by the prince’s communications team were “misleading” and allowed the case to continue. It is likely to go to trial in 2024.
News Group Newspapers (NGN)
This is another of the duke’s cases that has seen some movement in recent months. In 2019, Prince Harry sued News Group Newspapers (NGN) over alleged unlawful information gathering.
The lawsuit includes claims that NGN - the UK publisher of The Sun and now-defunct News of The World newspaper – illegally intercepted voicemail messages, obtained private information by deception and used private investigators to illegally gain information.
NGN argued for the case to be thrown out and said that Harry should have brought his lawsuit sooner, but the prince said he wasn’t able to due to a “secret agreement” between NGN and Buckingham Palace.
In July, the High Court ruled that the royal could not sue for alleged phone-hacking or use his argument of a confidential deal but allowed other claims to continue. The trial is expected to get underway in early 2025.
Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN)
Harry began a lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) at the same time he launched his action against NGN in 2019.
The trial started in May and offered the rare sight of a senior royal sitting in a courtroom’s witness box. Prince Harry and three other claimants representing dozens of celebrities are suing the major British newspaper publisher, accusing its titles of phone-hacking and using other illicit means to gather information between 1991 and 2011.
MGN has contested most of the allegations, arguing in its court filings that some claims have been brought too late and that in all four cases there is insufficient evidence of phone-hacking.
In December, the Duke of Sussex was awarded £140,600 ($179,000) after the High Court ruled he was the victim of historical phone hacking by MGN.
In a summary of his ruling, Justice Timothy Fancourt found that the publisher started phone hacking in 1996 but the practice was “extensive” between 2006 to 2011. However, he determined the prince’s phone “was only hacked to a modest extent.”
He determined that 15 stories published by MGN about Prince Harry during that latter period used methods including phone hacking, deceptive “blagging” practices and private investigators to unlawfully gather information.
The prince described his win against MGN as “a great day for truth, as well as accountability,” in a statement read by his lawyer, David Sherborne, outside the court in London. An MGN spokesperson said they apologized “unreservedly,” according to PA Media.
This story has been updated.