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Prince Harry cannot expand case against Sun’s publisher to include claims about Meghan, High Court rules

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Prince Harry cannot expand his legal claims against The Sun’s publisher to include allegations about his wife Meghan, the High Court has said.

Harry alleges he was unlawfully targeted by journalists and private investigators working for News Group Newspapers (NGN) titles The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World, which closed in 2011.

The Duke of Sussex had already lodged civil claims against NGN at the High Court.

But in March he sought to amend his case to add new allegations, including that The Sun ordered private investigators to target his then girlfriend – and now wife Meghan – in 2016.

During the three-day hearing earlier this year, Harry’s legal team also said knowledge of unlawful acts went right to the top of the organisation.

NGN has previously denied unlawful activity took place at The Sun.

Today the High Court refused the Duke permission to add new allegations relating to the years 1994, 1995 and 2016 to his case.

He was also denied permission to make other amendments adding to the allegations of phone hacking.

But Harry’s legal team was granted permission in principle to name and make allegations against “certain further journalists and private investigators”.

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Pic: AP

Murdoch claims ruled out of case

Claims against Rupert Murdoch, however, will not be part of the case against NGN, which will be heard at a full High Court trial in January 2025 alongside other claimants.

Mr Justice Fancourt ruled the individual allegations against Mr Murdoch should not be allowed to be taken to trial, stating they added “nothing material” to the case and that some amounted to a “new case”, but said some other amendments could be made.

Rupert Murdoch at his annual party at Spencer House, St James' Place in London. Picture date: Thursday June 22, 2023.
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Rupert Murdoch in June last year. Pic: PA

The judge said: “I am disposed to take a restrictive approach to allowing the proposed amendments, on grounds of delay and because permitting all the amendments will either prejudice the trial date or at least create an unlevel playing field on which NGN is running uphill to be ready for the full trial.

“The claimants have sought to introduce a vast quantity of new allegations and material, much of which is likely to be highly contentious, and there is no prospect of the time listed for trial accommodating these allegations.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex after arrive at the Royal Salute Polo Challenge, to benefit Sentebale, at The USPA National Polo Center in Wellington, Florida, US. Picture date: Friday April 12, 2024.
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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Pic: PA

‘Trophy targets’

Following the ruling, a spokesperson for NGN said the court “thoroughly vindicated” their position and “did not give permission to introduce large and significant portions of the amendments”.

“Mr Justice Fancourt said in his judgment, at para 79, ‘there is a desire on the part of those running the litigation on the claimants’ side to shoot at trophy targets, whether those are political issues or high-profile individuals’,” they said.

“He stated that this cannot become ‘an end in itself’ and has recognised the intention of the claimants to make amendments for ‘collateral reasons’ that do not further the proceedings.”

The spokesperson continued: “NGN stated that such ‘collateral reasons’ are primarily aimed at giving publicity to allegations against NGN executives.”

Read more:
The Sun’s publisher loses bid to delay trial
Queen ‘approved threatening NGN with legal action’

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Actor Hugh Grant had been due to pursue similar claims against The Sun in the High Court trial next year but he “reluctantly” accepted an “enormous sum of money” to settle his case against NGN in April.

The 63-year-old film star said at the time: “I don’t want to accept this money or settle. I would love to see all the allegations that they deny tested in court.

“But the rules around civil litigation mean that if I proceed to trial and the court awards me damages that are even a penny less than the settlement offer, I would have to pay the legal costs of both sides.”

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