Elton John, Prince Harry, Baroness Lawrence and others sue Associated Newspapers for “abhorrent criminal activity” and “gross breaches of privacy”
– Elton John, Prince Harry and others sue Associated Newspapers
- Allegations of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy
- Bugging cars and homes
- Recording private telephone conversations
- Paying police officers for sensitive information
- Obtaining medical information
- Obtaining confidential financial information
Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon OBE, Prince Harry, Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, Elizabeth Hurley, and Sadie Frost – veterans in the fight against media intrusion – have combined forces to sue Associated Newspapers, publishers of The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and the Mail Online.
In a press release issued by Hamlins LLP it is claimed “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.”
Unlawful acts alleged to have taken place include:
– hiring private investigators to place listening devices inside people’s cars and homes
– commissioning individuals to surreptitiously listen into & record live, private telephone calls
– payment of police officials, with corrupt links to private investigators, for inside, sensitive information
– obtaining medical information from private hospitals, clinics and treatment centres by deception
– accessing bank accounts, credit histories and financial transactions through illicit means and manipulation.
The statement goes on “it is apparent to these individuals that the alleged crimes … represent the tip of the iceberg – and that many other innocent people remain unknowing victims of similar terrible and reprehensible covert acts. 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.”
“These individuals have been the subject of public interest during the course of their careers and personal lives. They are united in their desire to live in a world where the press operates freely, yet responsibly. A press that represents truth, is sourced in fact and can be trusted to operate ethically and in the interests of the British public.”
In response Associated Newspapers said: “We utterly and unambiguously refute these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old.”
“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.”
In his evidence before the Leveson Inquiry in 2011, Associated Newspapers editor-in-chief Paul Dacre, who edited the Daily Mail between 1992 and 2018, “unequivocally” condemned “phone hacking and payments to the police”. Paul Dacre maintained that “phone hacking was not practicised by The Mail on Sunday or The Daily Mail ”
“Such practices are a disgrace and have shocked and shamed us all. They need to be purged from journalism and reforms instigated to prevent such criminal activities ever happening again.”
Jonathan Caplan, on behalf of Associated Newspaper, told the Leveson Inquiry that “so far as [Associated Newspapers] is aware no journalist at Associated Newspapers has engaged in phone-hacking…It does not bribe police officers and, in particular, it condemns the shameful practice of hacking the mobile phones of the victims of crime, or of their families”
Each of the claimaints has had previous dealings with the media some of which have resulted in legal action.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence is the mother of Stephen Lawrence, the 18 year old who was murdered in 1993. In the years following his murder, The Mail helped keep the Stephen Lawrence case in the headlines. In 2012 David Norris and Gary Dobson were found guilty of Stephen Lawrence’s murder.
In February 2021 Prince Harry received substantial damages from Associated Newspapers following “baseless, false and defamatory” claims that he snubbed the Royal Marines after stepping down as a senior Royal. The damages were donated to The Invictus Games Foundation which Prince Harry set up in 2014.
There is another ongoing action by Prince Harry against Associated Newspapers in connection with an article by Kate Mansey in February 2022 about his legal fight with the Home Office over police security. Prince Harry’s legal team argued that the article was defamatory and meant Prince Harry had lied and “improperly and cynically” tried to manipulate public opinion causing “substantial hurt, embarrassment and distress”.
Prince Harry won a victory in the first stage of the case when Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that the “natural and ordinary meaning of the words” used in parts of the article were defamatory.
Associated Newspapers disputes the claim.
In December last year Meghan Markle won her case against Associated Newspapers regarding a series of 5 articles which reproduced 585 out of a total of 1,250 words of a deeply personal letter she had written to her father Thomas Markle in August 2018 – 3 months after her wedding to Prince Harry on 19th May 2018.
The Court held “whilst it might have been proportionate to publish a very small part of the letter it was not necessary to publish half its contents as ANL had done”.
Successful actions have also been brought and damages paid to Sir Elton John and David Furnish, Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost in connection with phone-hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers and News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun and the News of the World.
Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, and Sadie Frost are represented by Hamlins LLP.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon OBE, Elizabeth Hurley and Sir Elton John and David Furnish are represented by gunnercooke.
David Sherborne of 5RB is Counsel for all the Claimants. He successfully defended Coleen Rooney when she was sued by Rebekah Vardy in the “Wagatha Christie” libel case. Coleen Rooney has been ordered to pay 90% (c £1.5m) of Coleen Rooney’s costs. An initial payment of £800,000 is due by 15th November. This is in addition to Rebekah Vardy’s own legal costs.
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