London, Jun 5 (EFE).- The constant intrusion of the tabloid press into the private life of the Duke of Sussex caused him to experience “huge bouts of depression and paranoia” and sabotaged his social relationships, Prince Harry’s attorney David Sherborne said Monday in a hearing in a London court.
The hearing – which the prince did not attend – was to be the first day of witness testimony in his court case against Mirror Group Newspapers, the British tabloid firm that owns the Daily Mirror and which Harry is suing for alleged phone hacking.
Judge Timothy Fancourt was expecting Harry to be present in court to testify on Monday and was apparently surprised that he was not there, but Sherborne said that the prince would be in court on Tuesday to testify in the case in which he alleges that MGN – and reporters for its Sunday Mirror, Daily Mirror and Sunday People newspapers – used illegal methods to obtain information about his private life.
Among the methods the prince is suing over are telephone hacking and the use of private detectives to reveal illegal activities he may have engaged in and to obtain exclusives.
During the hearing, Sherborne emphasized that the 38-year-old Duke of Sussex – who lives in the United States with his American wife Meghan Markle, and their two children – has never been able to be safe from the tabloids’ illegal data collection techniques.
Sherborne said that the prince had been subjected to such data collection techniques since he was a small boy, something that continued after the “tragic death of his mother,” Princess Diana, in a Paris car crash, and during his service in the British army as an adult.
“Nothing was sacrosanct or out of bounds and there was no protection from these unlawful information-gathering methods” by the tabloid press, said Sherborne in court.
The prosecution said that the three MGM tabloid newspapers revealed and dissected every detail about the romantic relationship between Harry and South African Chelsea Davy, information obtained by “illegal activity.”
According to the prince’s attorney, the constant flow of stories about that relationship led the then-couple to feel that they could “never be alone,” adding – he said – great stress to their relationship and eventually leading Davy to decide that a life as a member of the royal family was not for her.
The younger son of King Charles II and Lady Di claims that some 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 contained information collected using illegal methods, and 33 of them will be offered as evidence during this trial.
The articles discussed Harry’s dating activities, his experimentation with marijuana and cocaine and injuries he sustained at school, Sherborne said.
The duke and about 100 other celebrities are suing MGN for its alleged misuse of private information between 1991 and 2011,
Meanwhile, MGN has denied – or refused to admit – any guilt and is arguing that some of the plaintiffs have filed their individual court cases too late.
MGN attorney Andrew Green objected Monday to Harry’s absence from court, saying that he will need a day-and-a-half to cross-examine the prince.
When Harry testifies, this will break longstanding royal precedent as he becomes the first British royal to testify in court in more than 130 years.
Sherborne said in court Monday that Harry had missed his court date because of a late flight to the UK after celebrating his daughter Lilibet’s 2nd birthday on Sunday.
MGN has said that its reporters gathered the information through lawful reporting, but in court documents the publisher did apologize for the fact that there is “some evidence … (that) third parties (were instructed) to engage in other types of (unlawful information gathering),” the Associated Press reported, going on to “unreservedly apologize,” assuring plaintiffs that such conduct will “never be repeated.”
Harry appeared last Tuesday before the same court in a preliminary hearing related to a separate accusation against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday for alleged invasion of privacy.
The duke has also taken legal measures against News Group Newspapers, the owners of The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World.