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Prince Harry settles phone-hacking claim with Mirror group

Prince Harry outside the High Court last June
Prince Harry outside the High Court last June

The Duke of Sussex has settled his remaining phone hacking claims against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

The publishers will pay all of Prince Harry's legal costs, plus around £300,000 extra in damages, sources say.

The settlement - relating to claims of unlawful intrusion on 115 stories - marks the end of a four-year-battle between the prince and the publisher.

Speaking outside the High Court on the prince's behalf, lawyer David Sherborne said: "Our mission continues."

The barrister also criticised former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan whom, he said, "as editor, knew perfectly well what was going on".

The 115 stories were published between 1996 and 2010 - and Prince Harry spent two days in court last June being grilled about his claims that the information could only have been obtained in unlawful ways.

The court then ruled in December that there was evidence of "widespread and habitual" use of phone hacking at the group.

Mr Morgan, who was editor of the paper between 1995 and 2004, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of any attempts by newspaper staff to hack phones. As he has not been employed by MGN for 20 years, he is not personally liable for any of the claims and did not play any part in the court proceedings.

In a statement posted on X, he said: "I totally agree with Prince Harry that ruthless intrusion into the private lives of the royal family for financial gain is utterly reprehensible... and I hope he stops doing it."

Meanwhile the judge, Mr Justice Fancourt, criticised the "extremely confrontational way" the two sides had approached this legal battle.

In December the duke was awarded £140,600 in damages after winning 15 claims against MGN. Friday's settlement relates to claims on 115 more stories.

His lawyer, Mr Sherborne, told the court that his client will be paid a "substantial additional sum by way of damages" from MGN - now owned by Reach PLC - on top of all his legal costs.

The BBC understands the damages the prince will receive could be around £300,000 in total.

The publisher, meanwhile, said it was pleased to have reached the agreement, which allows it to "move forward from events that took place many years ago and for which we have apologised".

After December's judgement, an MGN spokesperson said: "Where historical wrongdoing took place, we apologise unreservedly, have taken full responsibility and paid compensation".

The duke was among several high-profile figures bringing claims against MGN, accusing the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People of unlawful intrusion into their private lives for stories.

Thirty-three articles in Prince Harry's claim were examined during the trial last year, with 15 found to have been the product of unlawful information gathering.

The additional 115 articles settled on Friday may have been the subject of a further trial if a settlement had not been reached.

Reading a statement on behalf of Prince Harry outside the court, Mr Sherborne said the court's judgement was "extremely damning".

"In light of all this, we call again for the authorities to uphold the rule of law and to prove that no one is above it."

The statement added that this should include former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, "who knew perfectly well what was going on, as the judge held".

"Even his own employer realised it simply could not call him as a witness of truth," the statement continued.

"His contempt for the court's ruling and his continued attacks ever since demonstrate why it was so important to obtain a clear and detailed judgement."

The statement ended by saying that "our mission continues" and that the prince would "continue to see it through to the end".

Coronation Street actor Michael Turner, known professionally as Michael Le Vell, actress Nikki Sanderson, and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse, had also brought similar claims against the company.

The claims brought by Ms Sanderson and Ms Wightman were dismissed because they were made too late, despite the judge finding that some of their complaints were proven.

Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that both should pay MGN the legal costs of defending their individual claims.

The judge also ruled that Mr Turner should pay MGN's costs of responding to his claim from the date of 5 March 2022, where an offer was made.

A veteran of phone-hacking claims, Mr Justice Fancourt criticised the way this legal battle was conducted.

Some claimants had refused to negotiate with MGN, he said, and had exaggerated their allegations without being realistic.

Prince Harry did not appear in court on Friday, having returned to the US this week after visiting his father King Charles following his cancer diagnosis.

The prince has been a longstanding and outspoken critic of the British tabloid press.

He has been involved in a number of legal battles in recent years, with several still to be resolved - including claims of unlawful information gathering by the Sun's publisher News Group Newspapers, set for trial in 2025.

Last month, he withdrew a libel claim against the Mail on Sunday publisher, Associated Newspapers. That was over an article about his publicly-funded security arrangements when visiting the UK after stepping back as a senior royal.