Prince Harry, Elton John sue major U.K. media group for ‘gross’ privacy breach

Britain's Prince Harry (L) greets British musician Elton John (R) at the Royal Variety Performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Nov. 13, 2015. PAUL HACKETT/AFP/Getty Images

Several high-profile figures, including the U.K.’s Prince Harry and singer Elton John, are suing the publisher of the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain, alleging phone tapping and other major breaches of privacy.

Elizabeth Hurley, Sadie Frost, Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon and John’s husband, David Furnish, are among others listed in the lawsuits against Associated Newspapers, reports Reuters.

According to Variety, which obtained the court documents, there are three lawsuits in total filed in London’s High Court.

A release from the Hamlins law firm (which is representing Prince Harry and Frost), says these “individuals have become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy by Associated Newspapers.”

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The lawsuit also claims the publisher is responsible for “hiring private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside people’s cars and homes,” impersonating individuals to obtain private medical information, including treatment centres and private hospitals, paying police officials for sensitive information, as well as using “illicit means and manipulation” to access credit history information, transactions and bank accounts.

“They have now therefore 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,” Hamlins said in its statement.

The publisher, which operates several tabloid newspapers and sites including the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and the Mail Online, told Al Jazeera it “utterly and unambiguously” denies the claims.

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“We utterly and unambiguously refute these preposterous smears, which appear to be nothing more than a preplanned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old,” a spokesman for the publisher said.

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“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.”

This isn’t Prince Harry’s first time bringing a lawsuit against Associated Newspapers’ publications.

He is currently suing the Mail on Sunday for libel over an article that stated he had tried to keep secret details of his legal fight to reinstate his police protection, and last year won damages from the same paper over claims he had turned his back on the Royal Marines.

His wife, Meghan Markle, also won a privacy case against the publisher last December for printing a letter she had written to her estranged father.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Commonwealth Day Service 2020 at Westminster Abbey on March 9 in London, England. Karwai Tang/WireImage

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex cited media intrusion as a major factor in their decision to step back from their duties as senior members of the Royal Family and move to the U.S. two years ago. They have previously said they would have “zero engagement” with the Daily Mail and several other major British papers.

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Others involved in this latest legal action have also previously brought lawsuits against major media organizations. Frost was awarded close to C$400,000 compensation in 2015 after she and seven other celebrity figures sued Mirror Group Newspapers for hacking messages on their phones.

Hurley, John and Furnish also settled phone-hacking claims against News Group Newspapers — publisher of the now-defunct News of the World — shortly before trial in 2019.

An eight-month criminal trial into hacking at the News of the World in 2014 resulted in the conviction of former editor Andy Coulson, who later went to work for then-prime minister David Cameron as his communications chief.

With files from Reuters

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