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Prince Harry accused of wasting court’s time – as Diana’s letters to Michael Barrymore read out

The Duke of Sussex did not attend the opening of the hearing in London on Monday – despite being in the country – much to the judge’s “surprise”. He is expected to appear on Tuesday to give evidence for the first time in his civil case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).

Prince Harry arriving at Royal Courts Of Justice in March. Pic: AP1:09
Mirror journalists listened in to voicemail messages from Princess Diana while Piers Morgan was editor of the newspaper, Prince Harry’s lawyer has claimed at the High Court, while detailing letters she wrote to former TV presenter Michael Barrymore.

Harry is attempting to prove that, for two decades, stories published by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) in the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People were written about him using information that was illegally obtained through phone hacking and voicemail interception, blagging, and the use of private investigators.

The Duke of Sussex did not attend the opening of the hearing in London on Monday despite being in the country – much to the “surprise” of the judge, who had directed witnesses to be in court a day prior to giving evidence. Harry is set to do so on Tuesday.

His absence was described as “extraordinary” by MGN’s lawyer Andrew Green, who accused his legal team of wasting the court’s time.

David Sherborne, acting for the duke, 38, said he had been celebrating his daughter Lilibet’s second birthday and had flown to the UK from Los Angeles after that.

The barrister told the court in his opening statement that Harry had “no time in his life when he was safe” from unlawful information-gathering. Nothing about his life was “sacrosanct or out of bounds”, Mr Sherborne said.

Prince Harry trial – as it happened

Diana’s letters to Barrymore

His opening included allegations that Princess Diana’s phone was also hacked, and he gave details of letters she wrote to comedian Michael Barrymore that revealed she had secret meetings with the star.

Mr Sherborne said that at the time, Barrymore was “struggling with coming out as gay” as well as an addiction to drink and drugs, and that Diana was meeting to comfort him through a difficult time.

In one letter, dated March 1997, she wrote: “Dear Michael, what joy it was to finally meet you tonight. I did want to emphasise that I’m here for you, whatever, whenever. It’s very easy to pop round and see you.”

In a later letter, she said she was “devastated” to hear the Mirror was telephoning her office to ask about “six meetings supposedly between us”.

“Nobody knew about our conversations/phone call. How deeply sorry I am [that] what I considered to be a private matter has become public property,” she wrote.

Lawyer David Sherborne, a member of Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex’s legal team, walks outside the Rolls Building of the High Court in London, Britain June 5, 2023. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Image: David Sherborne is acting for the Duke of Sussex
Mr Sherborne argued that “plainly the Daily Mirror has been listening in to the voicemail messages” between the pair.

He said that in former Mirror editor Piers Morgan’s book, The Insider, he refers to “rumours” that Diana was “secretly comforting” Barrymore and that he was being treated for alcohol addiction.

The lawyer argued the only way the Mirror could have found this out was through intercepting voicemails.

MGN has said it used documents, public statements and sources to legally report on the prince.

In his opening statement, Mr Green described the allegations about Diana as “total speculation” and “without any evidential basis whatsoever”.

He earlier told the court: “The defendant’s position is that there is simply no evidence capable of supporting the finding that the Duke of Sussex was hacked, let alone on a habitual basis.”

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Other key points from the opening statements:

Mr Sherborne questioned why a number of journalists mentioned in the claimant’s case are not appearing in court to give evidence
There were claims of alleged intrusion into the duke’s relationship with his former girlfriend Chelsy Davy, the details of which are said to have been “revealed and picked apart” by the publisher’s titles
Mr Green told the court that journalists would have been aware of the “enormous risk” of targeting Prince Harry and there is no evidence of unlawful activity
Former Mirror journalist Anthony Harwood gave evidence, denying knowledge that another reporter was involved in unlawful information gathering

Media lawyer Jonathan Coad, who was in court alongside Sky News staff, said the Princess Diana claims were “a bit of a bombshell”.

He told Sky News: “The first allegations concerning both Princess Diana and Piers Morgan have arrived at the same time.

“The allegation is that while Piers Morgan was the editor of the Mirror, Michael Barrymore and Princess Diana exchanged letters.

“She writes to Michael Barrymore. And in a second letter, she says, I’m so sorry, our secret meeting has been discovered.

“What David Sherborne is saying is that in the first letter, Princess Diana explained they’ll be speaking on the phone. And here’s my phone number.

“David Sherborne says that what’s obviously happened is that Barrymore left a message. They hacked it and they discovered about this secret meeting.”

The hearing continues.

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