Prince Harry back in court: a guide to the Duke of Sussex's latest legal battles

The 'most litigious' royal currently involved in cases against three major publishers as well as the Home Office

Prince Harry
Prince Harry leaves court after giving evidence at the Mirror Group phone hacking trial in June
(Image credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Prince Harry was due back in court today to argue he was unfairly treated when denied security protection in 2020 shortly after he announced he and his wife were stepping back as working members of the royal family to move abroad.

The "three-day High Court battle" is part of legal action against the Home Office's decision not to afford him the "same degree" of personal protective security when visiting Britain, said The Telegraph. The Duke of Sussex has claimed members of the royal household should not have been able to influence the process, after it emerged that Sir Edward Young, the late Queen's assistant private secretary, and the Earl of Rosslyn, the Master of Prince Charles's household, were both on the committee making the decision.

The hearing comes on "the heels of a royal scandal", said The Independent, when a new book by Omid Scobie appeared to name King Charles and the Princess of Wales as the royals who speculated about the colour of the Sussexes' first child. Buckingham Palace is said to be "considering all options" including legal action of its own.

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What other cases is Harry involved in?

Last month, the High Court ruled legal action brought against the publisher of the Daily Mail by Prince Harry and seven other high-profile defendants, including Sir Elton John and Dame Doreen Lawrence, could proceed.

Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) is facing accusations of alleged unlawful information-gathering, including listening in on private telephone conversations, accessing confidential records and even planting bugging devices within vehicles.

The decision was a "significant blow" to ANL, which had – until now – escaped the barrage of lawsuits related to illegal phone-hacking, reported The Guardian.  

To be fair, "it's hard to keep up with the various cases that he is involved with", said Alexander Larman at The Spectator. At the last count, Prince Harry is engaged in litigation against ANL over unlawful information gathering, the Home Office over withdrawing protection, and ANL again over libel claims relating to his Home Office legal action.

He is also awaiting judgment in a privacy case against the publisher of the Daily Mirror, after giving what the BBC described as "unprecedented" testimony when he became the first senior royal in more than 130 years to give evidence from the witness box. He is among more than 100 other people, ranging from actors, sports stars and celebrities, suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for "widespread unlawful activities between 1991 and 2011", Reuters reported.

There is also the case against the Murdoch-owned News Group Newspapers (NGN), publishers of The Sun and now-defunct News of the World. A ruling in July blocked parts of Prince Harry's claim relating to allegations of phone hacking against the publisher and the judge, Mr Justice Fancourt, also refused to allow the Duke to rely on an alleged "secret agreement" between the royal family and senior executives working for Rupert Murdoch as part of his claim. He did, however, give the Duke's claim over other allegations – including use of private investigators – the green light to go ahead to a trial, which the Press Gazette suggested might not be until January 2025.

What does he hope to achieve?

Harry would argue, said Larman at The Spectator, that he is "attempting both to stand up for his and his family's privacy, and that by taking on the venal forces of British tabloid journalism – and winning – that he will not only ensure that false and inaccurate stories about him are not published, but also that he is a sufficiently powerful and high-profile figure to stand as a champion of those without the same level of influence".

Whatever the motives, there is a "lot on the line here for the prince", said The Guardian's media editor, Jim Waterson, in reference only to The Mirror case. "He could lose a lot of money in legal fees if he has not signed a 'no win no fee' agreement with his legal team, and British newspapers will probably pillory him further if the verdict does not come out in his favour," he said.

With so many cases on the go at once, he risks spreading himself far too thin, concluded Larman. "At the back of his mind, there is the uncomfortable knowledge that he has to win every single action he is involved in. The alternative can only be humiliation, and a persistent irritation with this most litigious of members of the royal family, who has long since ignored the Firm's edict to 'never complain, never explain'."

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