Prince Harry gets a partial win in phone hacking case
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
He says he's been hounded by the paparazzi for his whole life. But today, Prince Harry won a victory against the British tabloids. A court in London has ruled the prince was a victim of phone hacking in the early 2000s. Harry and a hundred other celebrities sued the tabloids for allegedly hacking into their phones to get scoops. When Harry testified in this case back in June, he became the first U.K. royal to take the stand in a courtroom in more than a century. Today, London's High Court delivered its verdict. NPR's Lauren Frayer has been following this case and joins us live from our London bureau. Good morning, Lauren.
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.
FADEL: So what's the verdict?
FRAYER: Yeah. This is actually 33 different verdicts, one for each of the 33 news articles that Harry sued over. The judge ruled in Harry's favor in 15 of those 33 individual cases, so it's a partial victory for Harry. He's also been awarded about $180,000 in damages. Harry's also always said, though, that this isn't about the money. It's about holding these tabloids to account for unethical and illegal behavior in the 1990s and early 2000s.
FADEL: So tell us about that behavior. Exactly what did the court find the tabloids guilty of doing?
FRAYER: So Harry sued the publisher of the Daily Mirror newspaper for getting scoops illegally by hacking into his voicemail. And the judge ruled that that practice was widespread and habitual, is what he said, and that news executives covered it up. This was the early 2000s, when your voicemail, like, might not have even had a password, or if it did, it might have been, like, your phone number. So hacking was pretty easy, and the tabloids did it a whole lot. And in Harry's case, it resulted in these juicy tabloid stories about his grief over his mother Princess Diana's death, also about his personal relationships with girlfriends, like, when he was a teenager. There was one article about a sports injury that he had that literally no one knew about, except his immediate family and friends. And he has always said that this created, like, an air of mistrust and suspicion in his very inner circle, because, you know, someone was leaking information.
FADEL: Yeah, sounds very invasive. Have you heard any reaction from either side of this case?
FRAYER: So Harry lives in California. This was in the middle of the night for him when the judge issued the verdict. But his lawyer, David Sherborne, read aloud a statement from the prince, and he said, this isn't a case just about hacking.
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DAVID SHERBORNE: It is about a systemic practice of unlawful and appalling behavior, followed by cover-ups and destruction of evidence, the shocking scale of which can only be revealed through these proceedings.
FRAYER: So those are Harry's own words, read aloud by his lawyer. A spokesperson for the publisher of the Daily Mirror, the defendant in this case, also issued a statement saying that the publisher apologizes unreservedly but also noting, you know, these are events that happened many, many years ago and said it's really time to move forward and move on.
FADEL: Well, is any of this relevant now? I mean, technology has changed. Is phone hacking like this really happening anymore?
FRAYER: Phone hacking like this is not happening, so the practice may be in the past, but lawsuits certainly are not. This is one of several phone hacking lawsuits still underway, and big names are coming up in testimony and in judgments. Piers Morgan - big TV news personality here in the U.K. but also in the U.S...
FRAYER: He was actually editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper in the late '90s and early 2000s when this happened, and the judge named him - by name today said that Piers Morgan was aware and involved in this practice so there could be legal ramifications for him and for other newspaper executives in this.
FADEL: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer in London. Thank you, Lauren.
FRAYER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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