Prince William privately settled phone hacking claim, court heard

  • By Dominic Casciani and Emma Harrison
  • Home and legal correspondent

Prince William received a “very large sum” from the owners of the Sun newspaper to settle historic phone hacking claims, according to court documents.

The payment in 2020 was revealed in documents from Prince Harry’s lawyers in his legal action against News Group Newspapers in the High Court.

The Duke of Sussex is suing the publisher for alleged unlawful information gathering.

But NGN says it has run out of time to file a complaint.

The documents do not disclose the amount Prince William paid and do not contain details of what it relates to. A spokesman for the Prince of Wales said he would not comment on the ongoing legal proceedings.

“Secret Deal”

According to Prince Harry’s witness statement, the newspaper owners have entered into a “secret deal” with officials at Buckingham Palace to fend off legal action against senior royals.

This alleged agreement, the details of which were not disclosed in court, had delayed Prince Harry from bringing his own case, according to his lawyers.

The prince says he first became aware of the alleged deal around 2012.

At that time, he learned royal staff were taking legal action over phone hacking – and he believed he and his brother had also been personally targeted.

When the brothers consulted with officials or the royal family’s top lawyer, he said they had been told they could not take their own legal action.

β€œThe reason behind this was that a secret agreement had been reached between the institution and the senior executives of News Group Newspapers, according to which members of the royal family would only file complaints for telephone hacking at the end of (every other cases) and at that point the claims would be admitted or settled with an apology,” the statement read.

“The reason for this was to avoid the situation where a member of the Royal Family would have to sit in the witness box and recount the specific details of the private and highly sensitive voicemails that had been intercepted.”

Prince Harry said courtiers were ‘incredibly nervous’ over a repeat of the damaging disclosure of an intimate phone call between his father and Camilla, the Queen Consort, which was intercepted and released at a time when the King Charles was still married to Diana.

“This agreement, including NGN’s promises for a delayed resolution, was obviously a major factor in why no claim was filed by me at this time,” Prince Harry said.

Her solicitor, David Sherborne, said the Queen and two of her private secretaries were involved in “discussions and clearance” over the alleged deal, as well as private secretaries for William and Harry.

NGN denies the existence of any agreement.

Anthony Hudson KC, for NGN, said the Duke’s allegation that there was a secret deal was ‘completely inconsistent’ with other parts of his file and there was ‘extreme vagueness’ surrounding the circumstances of the alleged agreement.

He said Prince Harry did not say who made the deal, who it applied to, when it was made or when it was due to expire.

The case is one of three major cases the Duke of Sussex has brought against tabloids, all alleging unlawful news gathering. The other cases relate to the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail groups.

He alleges that evidence leaked from the criminal trials – which related to the now-closed News of the World phone hack – proves he was serially targeted by its sister title, the Sun.

Prince Harry accuses his reporters and private investigators working for them of obtaining private and confidential information from when he was 11 or 12, including details of his personal life and whereabouts.

The owners of The Sun say the Duke of Sussex’s claim for damages should be dropped as he is running out of time – and are calling for the Prince Harry case to be terminated.

If they win their case, it could block a similar damages claim from actor Hugh Grant.

Lawyers for Mr Grant are also opposing the newspaper’s attempt to end the case during the three-day hearing this week.

At the end of the hearing, the judge will determine whether their claims will go to trial, which is due to be heard in January next year.

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