Prince Harry accused of ‘obfuscation’, destroying evidence in lawsuit against Murdoch papers

A lawyer for the publisher of The Sun tabloid on Thursday accused Prince Harry of engaging in “shocking” and “extraordinary” obfuscation by destroying evidence it was seeking in his lawsuit claiming that the newspaper violated his privacy by unlawfully snooping on him.

Anthony Hudson said at High Court that the Duke of Sussex had deliberately destroyed text messages with the ghostwriter who penned his bestselling memoir, “Spare.”

A lawyer for Harry said News Group Newspapers (NGN) was engaging in a “classic fishing expedition” by seeking documents they should have sought much sooner for a trial scheduled in January.

“NGN’s tactical and sluggish approach to disclosure wholly undermines the deliberately sensational assertion that the claimant [Harry] has not properly carried out the disclosure exercise,” his lawyer, David Sherborne, said in court papers.

“This is untrue. In fact, the claimant has already made clear that he has conducted extensive searches, going above and beyond his obligations.”

He said the suggestion Harry was withholding or destroying material was the “height of hypocrisy”, saying NGN had deliberately deleted millions of emails as part of a way to hide incriminating evidence.

Hudson said Harry had created an “obstacle course” to getting documents it was seeking from his former lawyer and staff when Harry was a working member of the royal family.

“If the claimant wanted his documents from his former solicitors’ or from the royal household … he would have got them,” Hudson said.

The 168-year-old News of the World published for the last time on July 10, 2011 after exposure of its widespread use of phone-hacking triggered a scandal. Photo: TNS/File

The hearing is the latest in Harry’s battles against Britain’s biggest tabloids over alleged phone hacking and hiring private investigators to use unlawful measures to dig up dirt on him.

Harry, 39, the younger son of King Charles, is one of dozens of claimants, which had included actor Hugh Grant, alleging that between 1994 and 2016, News Group journalists violated their privacy through widespread unlawful activity that included intercepting voicemails, tapping phones, bugging cars and using deception to access confidential information.

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.

The litigation grew out of a phone hacking scandal that erupted at NGN’s News of the World in 2011.

The judge in the case recently ruled that Harry couldn’t expand his lawsuit to add allegations that Rupert Murdoch, who was an executive of the company that included NGN, was part of an effort to conceal and destroy evidence of unlawful activity.

NGN issued an unreserved apology in 2011 to victims of voicemail interception by the News of the World, which closed its doors after the scandal. NGN said it has settled 1,300 claims for its newspapers, though The Sun has never accepted liability.



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