Prince Harry received a surprise apology Wednesday at the start of a seven-week trial at the High Court in London against Mirror Group Newspapers over historic phone hacking allegations. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
May 10 (UPI) -- Prince Harry's legacy civil prosecution alleging phone hacking against Britain's Mirror Group Newspapers opened in the High Court in London on Wednesday with a surprise apology from the publisher.
MGN, which denies phone hacking and had been expected to argue the claims were too old to be brought, "unreservedly apologized" and acknowledged some of its past activities in relation to Harry "warrant compensation."
Andrew Green KC, who was representing the publisher in the case, admitted that a private investigator hired by The Sunday People was ordered to dig up details surrounding who Harry was with and what he was doing at London's Chinawhite nightclub in 2004.
"It is admitted that this represented an instruction to engage in unlawful information gathering, and MGN unreservedly apologizes and accepts that the Duke of Sussex is entitled to appropriate compensation for it," Green told the court.
He said, however, that MGN denied Harry's specific allegations of phone hacking.
The case first to go to trial of three cases against British newspapers brought by Harry, who was not in court, and alleges that 148 articles published between 1996 and 2010 were based on information allegedly gathered through phone hacking and other means.
In a witness statement to the court, Harry blamed the activities of MGN and its private investigators for the failure of his relationship with Chelsy Davy who could not handle the intrusion into her life and for depression and paranoia due to the fact he "could not trust anybody."
His case is among a number of "test cases" against the tabloid publisher of the Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People titles selected to be tried over the next seven weeks from a wider group of plaintiffs.
In opening arguments for the plaintiffs, David Sherborne KC outlined how Harry was targeted with the most intrusive methods to gather details about his private life including the use of private investigators. The overtly illegal tactics employed were "appalling," the court heard.
All the claimants, ranging from actress Nikki Sanderson, who was just 15-years-old when MGN first targeted her, to Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse, were victims of widespread illegality by MGN journalists and editors, Sherborne said.
Former Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who edited the paper from 1995 to 2004, was among those alleged to have used unlawful means to gather information or instructed others to do so. Morgan has always strongly denied any knowledge of phone hacking at the Mirror.
Sherborne also said the company's board and legal department were aware that these activities were rife but allowed it to continue over a lengthy period.
The illegal collecting of information was routine and endemic across all three newspapers between 1991 and 2011, he told the court.
"It was a flood of illegality," he said.