- By Dominique Cassiani & Francesca Guillot
- BBC News
Court documents claim that King Charles tried to prevent the Duke of Sussex from taking legal action against newspapers for alleged phone hacking.
In a witness statement, Prince Harry was “summoned to Buckingham Palace” and told to drop the cases because of the impact on the family.
Duke is suing the publisher of the Sun, Newsgroup Newspapers, alleging illegal data collection.
But NGN wants to stop the request, saying Harry has run out of time to bring it up.
The case is one of three major lawsuits Prince Harry has brought against tabloid newspapers, alleging illegal information gathering. Other cases concern the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail groups.
Prince Harry has accused Sun journalists and private investigators working for him of unlawful intrusion into his private life.
In documents revealed at the High Court on Tuesday, Harry said Buckingham Palace and the newspaper group had struck a backroom deal – which is why he had not brought the claim earlier. He said he first came to know about the deal in 2012.
He said court members had secretly agreed that under the deal, the royals would put off legal claims, and the newspaper group had promised to one day settle out of court to avoid embarrassment for the royals.
“This is to avoid a situation where a member of the royal family has to sit in the witness box and recount the specific details of intercepted private and highly sensitive voicemails.”
Prince Harry has said the Lords are “incredibly nervous” about the damaging re-exposure of a private phone call between his father and Queen Consort Camilla that was intercepted and released while King Charles was married to Diana.
NGN lawyers deny there is a confidentiality agreement.
According to court documents, Harry said he felt “frustrated that nothing had been resolved” by 2018 and wanted to “force a resolution” to the phone hacking claims.
The late Queen backed efforts to hold the publisher to its word and agree a settlement, and she approved civil servants sending an email to the newspaper’s board and raising the possibility of involving lawyers.
But when he finally decided to sue in 2019, Prince Harry said his father tried to stop him.
“I was summoned to Buckingham Palace and told to drop the legal proceedings because they affect ‘the whole family,'” the Duke said.
“This is a direct request (or rather request) from my father, Edward Young, and my father’s private secretary, Clive Alderton.
Prince William ‘settles alone’
Prince Harry’s court documents claim his brother Prince William was paid a “huge sum” by the owners of the Sun newspaper.
The payment was made in 2020 – but the documents do not disclose the amount Prince William paid and what it relates to.
A spokesman for the Prince of Wales said he would not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.
NGN has denied there was any secret deal, saying Harry’s claim “flagrantly contradicts” other parts of his case, said Anthony Hudson KC, and there is “too much ambiguity” around the circumstances of the alleged deal.
She said Prince Harry did not say who made the deal, who it applies to, when it was made, or when it expires.
The Sun’s owners say the Duke of Sussex’s claim for damages should be thrown out because Prince Harry’s time has run out – and have applied to end his case.
If they succeed in the application, they could block a similar high-profile damage claim by actor Hugh Grant.
Mr Grant’s lawyers are also objecting, as the newspaper tries to wrap up the case in a three-day trial this week.
At the end of the hearing, the judge will decide whether their claims will go to trial in January next year.