Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex (and others) v Associated Newspapers
Breaches of Privacy Claim and Unlawful Acts – October 2022
A press release from solicitors representing the Duke of Sussex (and others), released yesterday, details alleged very serious breaches of privacy and illegality against Associated Newspapers (operators of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday). With only limited information available at this time, this appears to be an escalation in severity of previously brought ‘phone hacking’ claims against News International (now ‘News UK’).
For the Duke of Sussex in particular, this represents a further round in the ongoing claims brought by him and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, against Associated Newspapers relating to alleged breaches of privacy.
Some of the more salacious allegations arising in this latest claim include
- “The impersonation of individuals to obtain medical information from private hospitals, clinics, and treatment centres by deception”; and
- “The accessing of bank accounts, credit histories and financial transactions through illicit means and manipulation.”
Group litigation against the press relating to phone hacking goes back some way: as we know, in 2012, the Leveson Inquiry produced its report, ‘An Inquiry Into The Culture, Practices And Ethics Of The Press’, which detailed widespread phone hacking and police bribery by the press. Associated with this was the now infamous group litigation action, involving multiple claimants (predominantly celebrities and public figures), against News International. News International admitted liability, offered compensation, and many cases were settled.
Whilst claims still continue relating to the historic actions of News International, it perhaps was thought that this topic was largely put to bed, however this latest case inevitably brings press and journalistic ethics into the spotlight once again.
If there is any merit to the allegations, which Associated Newspapers have, for the record, robustly denied, settlement strategies will have to be considered. The recent allegations are extremely serious, involving alleged breaches of privacy and infringement of human rights, for which the consequences are extremely serious, and may not be limited to purely financial damages claims. We cannot ignore that criminal prosecutions followed the phone hacking scandal and News International litigation, including the conviction of Andy Coulson (former editor of News of the World) for conspiracy to intercept phone communications.
I note that lawyers representing the claimants in this case have stated that “the alleged crimes…represent the tip of the iceberg”, indicating that further, more lurid details will be disclosed over the course of this case, with the potential that further claimants could join the litigation.
It is difficult to say much more at this time, at least until the details of the Particulars of Claim in the case are made available.
One thing is perhaps certain: Associated Newspapers has faced numerous legal claims over the years, and it has robustly defended those cases; it’s unlikely in our view therefore that there will be a swift capitulation, even if the allegations are proven to be true.
At Saunders Law, we will be following this case with interest, particularly considering our solicitors’ experience of acting in the historic phone hacking litigation. If you wish to discuss the issues raised by this case, please contact our Deputy Head of Commercial Litigation, Will Charlesworth at [email protected].