High Court legal filings on October 6 include action from the pair; Elton’s partner, David Furnish; actress Elizabeth Hurley; campaigner Baroness Doreen Lawrence; and British producer and designer Sadie Frost.
The group accuse Associated Newspapers, which owns the MailOnline, Mail on Sunday, and Daily Mail, of “gross breaches of privacy,” of which acting lawyers claim they have “compelling and highly distressing evidence.”
A statement from Prince Harry and Sadie Frost’s lawyers, Hamlins LLP, sent to BAZAAR.com outlines a series of “unlawful acts” being alleged by the group of six, including “the hiring of private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside people’s cars and homes,” and “commissioning of individuals to surreptitiously listen into and record people’s live, private telephone calls whilst they were taking place.”
Other alleged offenses include paying police officials “with corrupt links to private investigators, for inside, sensitive information”; the impersonation of individuals “to obtain medical information from private hospitals, clinics, and treatment centres by deception”; and “accessing of bank accounts, credit histories, and financial transactions through illicit means and manipulation.”
The statement adds, “It is apparent to these individuals that the alleged crimes listed above represent the tip of the iceberg—and that many other innocent people remain unknowing victims of similar terrible and reprehensible covert acts.” Harry and the others involved in the suit have then, per the statement, “banded together to uncover the truth, and to hold the journalists responsible fully accountable, many of whom still hold senior positions of authority and power today.”
Lawrence is a member of the British House of Lords and has been an active campaigner in the United Kingdom since the 1993 murder of her son, Stephen. Though the Daily Mail led a campaign for her son’s killers to be brought to justice, today’s allegations raise the possibility that the newspaper may have also gone on to invade her privacy in pursuit of fresh stories. She is now represented by lawyers at the London-based gunnercooke firm alongside John and Furnish, and Hurley.
The Mail group has a long history of privacy invasion and phone-hacking allegations. Nathan Sparkes, chief executive of Hacked Off, an organization established in 2011 that campaigns for a free and accountable press in Britain, says, “When Hugh Grant reported his suspicions that the Daily Mail had hacked his phone to the Leveson Inquiry in 2012, the Mail accused him of lying and attacked his sworn evidence as ‘mendacious smears.’ These allegations were due to be investigated in greater detail in Leveson Part Two, until the [British] Conservative government bowed to pressure from the Mail and other newspapers to cancel it.”
He continues, “Today, Doreen Lawrence, Prince Harry, and the other claimants are preparing to repeat similar ‘mendacious smears’ in a court of law. This time the Mail will have to defend itself in front of a High Court judge, rather than relying on its political allies in Downing Street to get them off the hook.”
The lawsuit is the third Harry has brought against Associated Newspapers since 2019. Previous cases covered accusations of libel and slander, one of which he accepted damages for in February 2021 and the other—involving a story about the Duke of Sussex’s bid for private security provided by the Metropolitan Police when in the U.K.—is ongoing (though, he won the first stage in July). His wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, successfully sued the publisher for copyright infringement and breach of privacy, resulting in a major payout and apology in December 2021. She donated the money to an anti-bullying charity.
A spokesperson for Associated Newspapers says, “We utterly and unambiguously refute these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old. These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims—based on no credible evidence—appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere.”
From Harper’s Bazaar US