The ‘oddity’ in Prince Harry’s privacy claim against Daily Mail publisher
The High Court judge overseeing the Duke of Sussex’s privacy claim against the publishers of the Daily Mail said it is a “slight oddity” that the key witness did not reveal he had given contradictory statements to both sides.
At the High Court on Wednesday, Mr Justice Nicklin asked Associated Newspapers Ltd how private investigator Gavin Burrows explained conflicting evidence he gave in two statements.
On the final day of the preliminary hearing on Thursday, Adrian Beltrami KC, for the defendants, said the newspaper was unaware of the existence of a 2021 admission Mr Burrows had given to the Duke’s legal team when he later provided a denial of the allegations.
In one written document submitted to the court, Mr Burrows strongly denied being commissioned or instructed by the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday to gather information unlawfully.
However, in an earlier statement provided in 2021, Mr Burrows appears to have made detailed admissions that he was commissioned by the Mail on Sunday to target celebrities by hacking phones and bugging cars.
Mr Beltrami told the court the second witness statement from Mr Burrows was in response to the claims made by the claimants, and not his original 2021 statement.
Mr Justice Nicklin said: “It is a slight oddity that when asked to provide a statement to the defendants, he didn’t say: ‘I provided a statement to the claimants two years ago.’”
The Duke, 38, is one of seven high-profile figures who are suing Associated Newspapers Ltd, alongside Sir Elton John, 76, and his husband David Furnish, 60; Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, 70, the mother of Stephen Lawrence; the actresses Sadie Frost, 57, and Liz Hurley, 57; and Sir Simon Hughes, a former Liberal Democrat MP, 71.
Mr Furnish was in court for the final morning of the hearing, with Baroness Lawrence arriving later.
In his first statement, Mr Burrows admitted targeting “hundreds if not thousands of private individuals” over a number of years, including the Duke and Sir Elton.
In the second statement, he categorically denied the claims made by the Duke and the others taking action against the media group.
Associated Newspapers Ltd has applied to have the claims dismissed without a trial on two grounds.
The first argues that they are too old to be considered by the court.
The second alleges that some of the financial documents relied upon by the claimants were confidentially supplied by the Daily Mail to the Leveson Inquiry and were being used in breach of a restriction order and confidentiality undertakings.
David Sherborne, representing the claimants, said the attempt by the Daily Mail’s publisher to have the privacy case dismissed without trial is “as ambitious as it is unattractive”.
He rejected comments made by Mr Beltrami KC that the case is “generic”, saying that analysis of the claims is “quite wrong”.
Mr Sherborne said the case focused on “individual and specific unlawful acts” that the claimants discovered were carried out against them “personally”.