The lawsuit brought against the Daily Mail by Prince Harry, Elton John and five other public figures accusing the publisher of using private detectives and listening devices to illegally snoop on them should go to a full trial, a British judge ruled Friday.
Judge Matthew Nicklin rejected a bid by the publisher of the Daily Mail to dismiss the case without trial, saying defense lawyers had not delivered a “knockout blow” to the claims.
The claimants, also include John’s husband David Furnish and actors Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost. They jointly accuse publisher Associated Newspapers Ltd. of unlawfully obtaining information by bugging homes and cars, recording phone conversations among other practices.
The Daily Mail repudiates the claims, which go back as far as 1993, from the celebrities and at hearings in March its lawyers argued that the claims were brought too late and that claimants were relying on confidential evidence that the papers turned over to a 2012.
The documents revealed at the public inquiry into wrongdoing by the tabloids lead to the claims against the now-closed News of the World, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Group.
The Judge ruled that the claimants cannot rely on the documents handed over to the inquiry, which were ordered to be kept confidential by its head, Brian Leveson. They allegedly include records of payments to private investigators by the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.
‘Royal’ law firm Hamlins, who represented Prince Harry (Gunnercooke represented the others) and who we have reported on before, issued the following statement on behalf of their clients –
Statement on behalf of Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon OBE; Sir Elton John and David Furnish; Elizabeth Hurley; Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex; Sadie Frost; and Sir Simon Hughes:
“We are delighted with today’s decision which allows our claims over serious criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy by the Mail titles to proceed to trial.
The High Court has dismissed “without difficulty” the attempt by Associated Newspapers (publisher of The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and the Mail Online) to throw these cases out. Indeed, the Judge found that each of our claims had a real prospect of showing there was concealment of unlawful acts by the Mail titles and that this could not have been discovered until recently. Our claims can now proceed to trial.
As we have maintained since the outset, we bring our claims over the deplorable and illegal activities which took place over many years, including private investigators being hired to place secretly listening devices inside our cars and homes, the tapping of our phone calls, corrupt payments to police for inside information, and the illegal accessing of our medical information from hospitals and financial information from banks. We intend to uncover the truth at trial and hold those responsible at Associated Newspapers fully accountable.
The Judge also found ledgers showing secret payments by The Mail and The Mail on Sunday to private investigators which had been provided to our lawyers and could not be used at this stage without the consent of the newspapers or the Government. This only delays the inevitable since they will have to be produced in the course of the claim by Associated in any event. However, if The Mail and The Mail on Sunday have nothing to hide, and they genuinely believe our allegations are unfounded, as they appear to claim, they should provide us with the ledgers voluntarily now, and let the claims proceed to trial as quickly as possible.”
The judgment is available here.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon OBE, Elizabeth Hurley and Sir Elton John and David Furnish are represented by gunnercooke.
Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, and Sadie Frost are represented by Hamlins LLP.
Sir Simon Hughes is represented by Thomson Heath & Associates.
David Sherborne, Julian Santos, Ben Hamer and Luke Browne of 5RB are Counsel for all the Claimants instructed by Callum Galbraith of Hamlins LLP, Anjlee Sangani of gunnercooke and Mark Thomson of Thomson Heath & Associates.