Prince Harry, hacking claims and the royal court case of the century

LONDON - Prince Harry has been on this collision course for years - and finally he is going to be in a courtroom in person, eyeball to eyeball, in his battle against the tabloid press. It promises to be an electrifying moment as he gives his evidence and faces questions this coming week from lawyers in London’s High Court about his allegations of phone hacking. Prince Harry has said that changing the media landscape is his “life’s work” and this gladiatorial courtroom encounter could be one of his own defining moments. He has two of the key requirements for this legal battle: First, a single-minded determination to keep going without settling, and second, being rich enough to take the financial hit if he loses. But giving evidence in person in this Mirror Group Newspapers hacking trial will have big risks for him. He will face the type of open, public and tough questioning that is a long way from any previous royal interview he has taken part in. “This isn’t like taking questions from Oprah Winfrey in a celebrity interview,” says Tim Maltin, managing partner of Maltin PR, which specialises in high-profile reputation management. “It is a hostile encounter with a highly-skilled cross-examiner armed with a battery of techniques to undermine your credibility. “Giving evidence is daunting… and cross-examination is far more often traumatic than cathartic,” he says. Prince Harry is likely to face detailed questioning about highly personal news stories which he claims were obtained through unlawful means - an allegation which the newspaper group disputes. He could face gruelling questioning about stories relating to his relationships, his girlfriends, his mother Diana, the treatment of Meghan and his life growing up in the Royal Family. There have already been challenges to the allegations of Prince Harry and his co-complainants. Lawyers for Mirror Group have said the evidence of hacking is “slim” in some cases and “utterly non-existent” in others. Prince Harry’s own memoir, Spare, might be turned against him, with its accounts of drug taking and family tensions. Historian and author Sir Anthony Seldon thinks Prince Harry is ill-advised to be appearing in court like this. “Harry should never be there,” he says, arguing that the Royal Family should rise above such fights. “Harry’s standing and trajectory will only be harmed, whatever the outcome. The public is losing sympathy with him and his constant protestations of victimhood,” says Sir Anthony. “Harry and Meghan’s continuing hard luck stories only make William and Kate look much better in every way,” he adds. But royal commentator Pauline Maclaran thinks taking a stand like this could boost Prince Harry’s popularity, particularly among young people.

 Rather than being accused of being privileged or entitled, she says in this court case “he’ll be seen as the underdog, and that’s a good position to be seen in”. “Many young people will see him as quite a heroic figure, fighting the establishment,” says Prof Maclaran, an academic at Royal Holloway, University of London. “It could be good for Harry in the long run, even though the older generation will be tut-tutting,” she says. As for the rest of the Royal Family, they will be “watching with an element of horror”, she says. 

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