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Part of Prince Harry’s lawsuit against The Sun publisher can go to trial, High Court rules

Part of the Duke of Sussex’s damages claim against the publisher of The Sun over allegations of unlawful information gathering can go ahead to trial, a High Court judge has ruled.

A judge ruled on Thursday that Harry, 38, can not bring his claim against News Group Newspapers (NGN) in relation to phone hacking.

But Mr Justice Fancourt said the rest of his claim, relating to other allegations of unlawful information gathering such as use of private investigators, could be tried.

However, he refused to allow the duke to amend his case to rely on a “secret agreement” between Buckingham Palace and senior NGN executives.

NGN has hailed the judge’s High Court ruling as a “significant victory” for them.

Harry has claimed he was targeted by journalists and private investigators working for NGN titles The Sun and the News Of The World and launched a claim for damages.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex arrives at the Rolls Building of the High Court in London, Britain June 7, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
A judge said the Duke of Sussex’s claim against News Group Newspapers (NGN) in relation to phone hacking can not proceed to trial (Photo: Reuters /Toby Melville/File Photo)

In his written ruling, the judge concluded: “I am satisfied that there is no reasonable prospect of the duke proving at trial that he did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have discovered facts that would show that he had a worthwhile claim for voicemail interception in relation to each of the News of the World and The Sun.

“He already knew that in relation to the News Of The World, and he could easily have found out by making basic inquiries that he was likely to have a similar claim in relation to articles published by The Sun.

Mr Justice Fancourt added in his ruling that “there is no evidence currently before me” that the duke knew before the date he issued his claim “that NGN had done anything other than hack his mobile phone, at the News Of The World”.

“Knowing or being on notice of a worthwhile claim for voicemail interception does not of itself amount to knowledge or notice of a worthwhile claim for other forms of (unlawful information gathering),” the judge added.

At a hearing in April, NGN asked Mr Justice Fancourt to throw out the duke’s case, arguing it was brought too late because he should have known sooner he had a potential claim.

A spokesperson for NGN said Mr Justice Fancourt’s ruling “substantially reduces the scope” of Harry’s legal claim.

“The High Court has today, in a significant victory for News Group Newspapers, dismissed The Duke of Sussex’s phone hacking claims against both the News Of The World and The Sun,” a spokesperson said.

“As we reach the tail end of litigation, NGN is drawing a line under disputed matters, some of which date back more than 20 years ago.

“In arguing his case, the Duke of Sussex had alleged a ‘secret agreement’ existed between him/Buckingham Palace and NGN which stopped NGN from asserting that the duke’s claim had been brought too late.

“The Judge, Mr Justice Fancourt, found his claims in relation to the alleged ‘secret agreement’ were not plausible or credible. It is quite clear there was never any such agreement and it is only the Duke who has ever asserted there was.”

Harry has been involved in six legal battles at the High Court in recent months.

His civil litigation has seen him bring claims against three major newspaper publishers over allegations of unlawful information gathering, as well as legal challenges against the Home Office in relation to his personal security.

The Duke of Sussex is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, claiming journalists at its titles were linked to methods including phone hacking, “blagging” (gaining information by deception), and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

(This story is being updated)

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