A group of people including Prince Harry, singer Sir Elton John and his partner has launched legal action against Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail. The group also includes the actresses Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost. Members of the group have become aware of breaches of privacy, law firm Hamlins said in a statement.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the mother of black teenager Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993, is also part of the group. Associated Newspapers has refuted the allegations of phone-tapping and other breaches of privacy. A spokesman for the publisher said: “We utterly and unambiguously refute these preposterous smears. “These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims – based on no credible evidence – appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers.”
Hamlins said in its statement the individuals are aware of evidence pointing to breaches of privacy by Associated Newspapers, including the placing of listening devices inside people’s cars and homes as well as commissioning the bugging of live, private telephone calls. The statement added Hamlins is representing Prince Harry and Ms Frost, while Ms Lawrence, Ms Hurley, Sir Elton and his partner David Furnish are being represented by gunnercooke. Harry and his wife Meghan’s relations with the UK’s tabloid press collapsed after they married in 2018.
The couple have said previously they would have zero engagement with four major British papers, including the Daily Mail. They cited media intrusion as a major factor in their decision to step down from royal duties and move to North America. In its statement Hamlins’ also alleges police officials with links to private investigators were paid for sensitive information. It also alleges bank accounts, credit histories and financial transactions were accessed through “illicit means and manipulation”. The statement claims: “It is apparent to these individuals that the alleged crimes listed above represent the tip of the iceberg – and that many other innocent people remain unknowing victims of 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.” It adds the individuals taking action against Associated Newspapers have been the subject of public interest during their careers and they are united in their desire to live in a world where the press operates freely and responsibly. David Sherborne of media law firm 5RB is counsel to all the group’s members, taking instruction from Callum Galbraith of Hamlins and Anjlee Sangani from gunnercooke. Associated Newspapers publishes the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline.
Baroness Lawrence has also lodged a claim against Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, which publishes a number of titles, including The Sun. Details of that claim are unknown, but it is understood to also relate to misuse of private information. While there have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal – most of which have been settled – this is the first claim to be brought against Associated Newspapers. News Group Newspapers has settled claims relating to the now-defunct News Of The World, while never admitting any liability over claims made in relation to The Sun. Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) settled claims relating to its titles, including The People and The Sunday Mirror.
Both publishers currently face further claims and have recently made attempts to bring the long-running litigation to an end. In recent days, shortly before a deadline for claims to be submitted, Baroness Lawrence and various other high-profile figures have filed claims at the High Court against News Group Newspapers. Court filings show claims have been launched against News Group Newspapers by a host of celebrities, musicians, sports stars and politicians.
These include comedian Jimmy Carr, television presenter Jonathan Ross, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles – the former husband of the Queen Consort – and former Liberal Democrat leaders Sir Vince Cable and Tim Farron. News Group Newspapers has been approached for comment.