A judge has told the Duke of Sussex’s lawyer to “show me the evidence” instead of making claims in his lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN).
Mr Justice Fancourt, presiding over the case, made the comments while listening to the Duke of Sussex’s barrister give his closing speech on Wednesday.
He told David Sherborne, representing the Duke and three other high-profile claimants, to “show me the evidence, not just assertions by you” of particular examples of voicemail interception in the Duke’s case.
The judge told the barrister: “Give me your best two examples of particular evidence that Prince Harry was able to give of a particular message.”
In response, Mr Sherborne pointed to the Duke’s witness statement, telling the court that “when he deals with the articles, he does say on a number of occasions that it was material he was talking about privately”.
‘Remembering voicemail is not possible’
It comes after lawyers from MGN on Tuesday accused the Duke of suing tabloid newspapers as part of a crusade to “reform the British media” without evidence to support his claims.
The Duke is suing MGN over unlawful information gathering, including phone-hacking – citing 148 articles he alleged had been obtained illegally, such as by intercepting his voicemails.
During the barrister’s closing speech on Wednesday morning, the judge told him that “this is your opportunity” to give specific examples of voicemail interception leading to articles about the Duke in the Mirror titles.
Mr Sherborne cited the Duke’s witness statement in response, saying: “I had in mind the discussion between him and his brother relating to Mr Burrell, so that’s one example … Then we’ve got ‘Hooray Harry’s dumped’… These are just examples.”
He added: “Now obviously 20 years later, remembering a specific voicemail is not going to be possible … What all the claimants do is in their witness statement explain how the information is something that they were discussing in voicemails but not publicly.”
The 2003 People article that Mr Sherborne references as an example of potential voicemail interception concerns a conversation between Prince Harry and his brother about Paul Burrell, their mother’s former butler.
The Duke told the court during his cross-examination that a message to his brother in which he described Mr Burrell as a “two-faced s—” … “could have been lifted directly from a voicemail I had left”.
He said the article was the start of a rift between the brothers, because Prince William had wanted to meet Mr Burrell whereas Harry thought it a bad idea.
‘Hooray Harry’s dumped’
Meanwhile, the origin of the 2007 Sunday Mirror article titled “Hooray Harry’s dumped:, was also questioned by the Duke while he was in the witness box.
He questioned how the newspaper could have known “exactly where I was” after being photographed going into a nightclub to “drown my sorrows” after splitting from Chelsy Davy.
“I’m not entirely sure how anyone would have known we had broken up because again, we didn’t talk about this regularly,” he told the court.
Andrew Green KC, representing MGN, said in response that the News of the World had already run the story and the Sunday Mirror followed it up the same night.
In closing submissions, the tabloid group said it was impossible not to have “enormous sympathy” for the Duke, given the media intrusion he has been subjected to throughout his life.
However, it said he had failed to identify any examples of phone-hacking or unlawful information gathering at its newspapers. It accused him of bringing the litigation “as a vehicle to seek to reform the British media” as part of his ongoing crusade.
Following MGN’s submission on Tuesday that the Duke’s claim had “failed to withstand scrutiny”, Mr Justice Fancourt told the Duke’s barrister to “draw out particular examples if you have them”.
Mr Sherborne replied: “If this is something that your Lordship is particularly interested in us highlighting … then I will do so … with respect, it is not correct to say I have not highlighted this.
“The examples are in the witness statement and the article analysis.”
The Duke’s barrister has maintained that there was “hard evidence” that unlawful information gathering was “widespread” at MGN.
In closing submissions, he drew attention to the existence of the Duke’s mobile phone number on a device belonging to a previous head of news at the Sunday Mirror as a “very significant feature” in the case.
Judge tells Prince Harry’s lawyer to ‘show me the evidence’ Judge tells Prince Harry’s lawyer to ‘show me the evidence’