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Prince Harry’s privacy case against Murdoch tabloids to proceed as planned

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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LONDON (Reuters) – Prince Harry’s privacy case has avoided a major delay after London’s High Court rejected an application by the publisher of Rupert Murdoch-owned British mass-market newspapers that could have caused stalled proceedings for two years.

In total, 42 figures are suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), the publisher of the Sun and the defunct News of the World, over allegations that its journalists, or private detectives they contracted, had been involved in unlawful activities and invasion of their privacy.

A trial focusing on some of those claims, possibly including Harry’s, is due to begin at the High Court in London in January next year, but on Wednesday the publisher, NGN, applied to have a ruling first on whether some of the lawsuits had been brought outside a six-year time limit for legal action.

On Friday, Judge Timothy Fancourt rejected that application for a preliminary trial, meaning the cases will proceed as planned.

Fancourt said it could lead to an “unsatisfactory” two-year delay and risk increasing costs, saying it was unlikely that NGN would win a time limitation argument in every case.

Last July, Fancourt rejected an application by NGN to strike out Harry’s lawsuit, ruling the prince could proceed with some of his allegations about confidential details about him being obtained by deception, although his accusations of phone-hacking were ruled to be time-barred.

Actor Hugh Grant had also won similar permission, but he said on Wednesday he had reluctantly settled his case with NGN for an “enormous sum of money”.

Harry’s lawyer David Sherborne said the prince too might be forced to agree a deal because anyone who rejected a settlement offer which was ultimately less than the damages awarded by a court could be liable to pay the legal fees of both sides, potentially running into millions of pounds.

While NGN has paid out hundreds of millions of pounds to victims of phone-hacking by News of the World and settled more than 1,300 lawsuits, it has always rejected allegations of any wrongdoing by staff at The Sun.

 

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Sharon Singleton)