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Prince Harry’s lawyer implicates Rupert Murdoch in cover-up of unlawful snooping by his tabloids

Harry and other claimants, including actor Hugh Grant, sought during the first of a three-day hearing in the High Court to amend their lawsuit against the publisher to include allegations that executives were part of an effort to conceal and destroy evidence of wrongdoing

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a panel held during Project Healthy Minds' second annual World Mental Health Day Festival and The Archewell Foundation Parents' Summit: Mental Wellness in the Digital Age in New York City, U.S., October 10, 2023.Mike Segar (REUTERS)

Prince Harry’s lawyer leveled explosive new allegations Wednesday that Rupert Murdoch was aware of cover-ups at his British tabloids that used unlawful techniques to spy on the Duke of Sussex and others.

Attorney David Sherborne said Murdoch was among the executives who were aware that public statements made about phone hacking and other unlawful information gathering at News Group Newspapers were untrue.

Harry and other claimants, including actor Hugh Grant, sought during the first of a three-day hearing in the High Court to amend their lawsuit against the publisher to include allegations that executives were part of an effort to conceal and destroy evidence of wrongdoing.

“It is inferred that they would not have been carrying out this extensive concealment and destruction strategy without the knowledge and approval of Rupert Murdoch,” Sherborne said in a court filing.

Defense lawyer Anthony Hudson said the proposed changes to the case were unnecessary and seemed aimed at “campaigning against the tabloid press” and as a “substitute for a public inquiry.”

“They appear to be designed to grab headlines,” Hudson said.

Harry’s lawsuit against News Group Newspapers is one of three he’s brought against Britain’s biggest tabloids over alleged unlawful activity carried out by journalists and private investigators they hired that came to light after a phone hacking scandal erupted at Murdoch’s News of the World in 2011. The case is tentatively scheduled to go to trial in January.

Harry, 39, the younger son of King Charles III, has used the courts in his crusade against the press that he blames for a host of personal grievances.

His litigation has put him at odds with the royal family that has avoided airing their disputes in public. He made history in June when he became the first senior royal in over a century to testify in court.

In December, his efforts led to a big victory after a judge found phone hacking at Mirror Group Newspapers was “widespread and habitual.” In addition to a court judgment, he recently settled remaining allegations that included his legal fees. The total sum wasn’t announced, but he was due to receive an interim payment of 400,000 pounds ($508,000).

He has another case pending against the owner of the Daily Mail.

In the News Group case, Harry and other claimants allege that between 1994 and 2016, journalists at The News of the World and The Sun violated their privacy through widespread unlawful activity that included intercepting voicemails, tapping phones, bugging cars and using deception to access confidential information. It also alleges that executives lied and concealed and destroyed records.

In 2011, News of the World shut down amid the phone hacking scandal that led to a government inquiry and News Group Newspapers, or NGN, issued an unreserved apology to all the newspaper’s victims.

Sherborne said Murdoch was among the executives who either made, endorsed or had someone else make statements — including at public inquiries — to promote the false narrative that there was only “one rogue reporter” at News of the World.

“Those individuals, and NGN and News International corporately, were dishonest in making these statements since they knew them to be false at the time they were made,” Sherborne said.

NGN, a subsidiary of News International, said it has settled 1,300 claims for its newspapers, though The Sun has never accepted liability.

“Today the claimants have sought to introduce accusations to the civil court against many current and former journalists, staff and senior executives of News International with misleading pleadings and unjustified inferences in a scurrilous and cynical attack on their integrity,” NGN said in a statement.

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