Prince Harry has returned to court for his ongoing case against the publisher of the DailyMailjust as his father Charles visits Germany in his first overseas visit as King.
After missing the third day of the hearing, the Duke of Sussex responded at the High Court on Thursday as his lawyers resisted an “ambitious” and “unattractive” bid by the publisher to end the legal action.
Earlier in the day his father – who it was reported would not have seen his US-based son during Harry’s surprise visit to the UK – gave a historic address to the German parliament.
Harry and other high-profile individuals accuse Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) of having “concealed wrongdoing” over the alleged unlawful gathering of their private information.
ANL, which denies the allegations, says a judge should rule in its favor without a trial because the legal challenges against it have been brought “far too late”.
The publisher’s lawyers have argued that the claimants, who include Sir Elton John, his husband David Furnish, and Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, could have used “reasonable diligence” to discover that they had a potentially “worthwhile” claim earlier.
Lawyers for those bringing legal action said they were “thrown off the scent” and were not aware of being targeted, having believed “categorical denials” from ANL of the publisher’s involvement in unlawful activity.
On the final day of a preliminary hearing in London on Thursday, David Sherborne, who is representing Harry and the other claimants, said ANL’s challenge to their legal action was as “ambitious as it is unattractive”.
He accused the publisher of seeking an “impermissible mini-trial or worse” before further documentation and evidence were secured in the cases.
The barrister said the group brought the action, which includes actors Sadie Frost and Liz Hurley as well as former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Simon Hughes, had a “compelling case”.
Mr Sherborne said ANL was alleged to have commissioned 19 different private investigators to carry out a series of unlawful acts from 1993 to 2011 and beyond, which in some instances informed articles.
He told the court the claimants were “thrown off the scent by the way in which the articles were written”.
Mr Sherborne later read out extracts from Lady Lawrence’s witness statement, in which she said she felt “played for a fool” by the DailyMailbelieving that the newspaper “really cared” about the injustice of the murder of her son Stephen Lawrence.
Lady Lawrence said she had learned that a journalist had allegedly instructed a private investigator to target her, adding that she had “never thought to blame” the newspaper.
“They were supposed to be our allies and friends; the good people, not the bad,” she said, adding that she had believed the information contained in the articles about her coming from the police.
Mr Sherborne told the court: “That is nothing short of gaslighting Baroness Lawrence: that’s the form of concealment we are talking about.”
In written arguments, he added that there were “vociferous and prolific denials of any wrongdoing by the defendant, made on oath to the Leveson Inquiry by its senior executives, and repeated ever since”, which the duke and others “were entitled to and did believe”, and which prevents the publisher from arguing that material could have been discovered earlier.
He said that the claimants had since “uncovered concealed and systemic wrongdoing by the defendant” through information allegedly provided by private investigators and in new documents.
Mr Furnish was present in court again on Thursday. Sir Elton, Ms Frost and Lady Lawrence all attended earlier this week.
Adrian Beltrami KC, for the publisher, previously told the court: “The claims are rejected by the defendant in their entirety, as are the unfounded allegations that are repeatedly made that the defendant either misled the Leveson Inquiry or concealed evidence from the Leveson Inquiry. ”
The lawyer said the legal action against ANL has “no real prospects of succeeding” and is “barred” under a legal period of limitation.
The duke and others allege that ANL hired private investigators to place listening devices inside cars, “blag” private records, and access and record private phone conversations.
Six of those bringing cases against the publisher have referred in their claims to alleged confessions made by private investigator Gavin Burrows, but the ANL has highlighted a later contrasting witness statement from Mr Burrows in which he denies being commissioned by its newspapers to conduct unlawful information-gathering .
The hearing before Mr Justice Nicklin is due to conclude on Thursday, with a ruling expected at a later date.