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Friday
Oct042019

Prince Harry takes new legal action against the press over 'illegal interception of voicemail messages'

AdrianHancu/iStock(LONDON) -- Prince Harry's battle against media outlets in the U.K. appears to be growing.

Buckingham Palace confirmed Friday that Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has started legal action with regard to "the illegal interception of voicemail messages."

The palace did not provide any further details, noting that the "particulars of the claims are not yet public."

News Group Newspapers (NGN), the Rupert Murdoch-owned company that publishes The Sun and previously published now-defunct News of The World, later confirmed "that a claim has been issued by the Duke of Sussex.”

Prince Harry is also taking aim at another British tabloid, the Daily Mirror.

According to a court listing, a claim was filed on Sept. 27 by the prince against MGN Limited, the owner of the Daily Mirror. When contacted by ABC News, the Daily Mirror declined to comment on the proceedings.

The new claims filed by Harry are reminiscent of the telephone hacking scandal that engulfed several British tabloids a decade ago, according to ABC News' royal contributor Omid Scobie. News of the World was shuttered in 2011 as a result of the hacking scandal that extended to the British government and saw a reporter from the outlet accused of hacking the voicemail of aides to the royal family.

Prince Harry, now 35, was in his 20s and years away from meeting his future wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, when the hacking scandal unfolded.

Now a husband and a dad who earlier this week announced legal action against another British tabloid, the Mail on Sunday, Harry is using his platform to take on the British press.

"For Harry this comes after three years of what he says is a relentless campaign by some of the British tabloids to damage the reputation of his wife through insulting commentary pieces, negative stories and false gossip," said Scobie. "This is a man who feels emboldened to take on three of the most-read newspapers in the country and fight for what he believes is right."

"Harry and Meghan really want to draw a line to say, 'Enough is enough.' They will not tolerate the abuse anymore," he added.

The Mail on Sunday, the subject of the lawsuit announced on Tuesday, published a letter in February that Meghan is said to have written to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, after he missed her May 2018 wedding to Harry.

Events surrounding the couple's wedding are said to have led to Meghan's estrangement from her father, who bowed out of walking Meghan down the aisle at St. George's Chapel amid a paparazzi scandal and a reported heart attack.

Harry and Meghan sought legal advice immediately after Meghan's letter was published in the Mail on Sunday, according to Scobie.

"This industry of 'fast' news is incredibly toxic and I think Harry wants to change this, not just for himself and his wife, but for the entire royal family in general and the future members of the royal family like the Cambridge children and Archie," he said. "This is Harry feeling confident enough to take on what he sees as dark force."

A Mail on Sunday spokesman said in a statement in response to the Sussexes' legal claim, "The Mail on Sunday stands by the story it published and will be defending this case vigorously. Specifically, we categorically deny that the duchess's letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning."

Harry, whose mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi, delivered a passionate statement announcing the claim against the tabloid, describing Meghan as "one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences."

"Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself," Harry said. "I've seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

The legal claim against the Mail on Sunday was announced as Harry, Meghan and their nearly 5-month-old son, Archie, wrapped up a 10-day tour of South Africa during which the couple was widely praised. Harry called the mostly glowing coverage as an example of the "double standards" of the British tabloid press.

"The positive coverage of the past week from these same publications exposes the double standards of this specific press pack that has vilified her almost daily for the past nine months; they have been able to create lie after lie at her expense simply because she has not been visible while on maternity leave," he said. "She is the same woman she was a year ago on our wedding day, just as she is the same woman you've seen on this Africa tour."

Harry's statement offered a first glimpse for the public into how he and Meghan have been affected by the nonstop coverage of their relationship.

"There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been," he said, adding later in the statement, "I have been a silent witness to [Meghan's] private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in."

Meghan has been a nonstop source of media attention since the start of her relationship with Harry, including being dubbed "Duchess Difficult" and said to be at the the center of a reported feud with William's wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

The Sun ran an article last November that claimed that Meghan made Kate cry at a bridesmaid's fitting for Kate's daughter, Princess Charlotte.

While Harry and Meghan were dating, Kensington Palace issued an unprecedented statement on behalf of Harry lambasting the "abuse and harassment" of Meghan by sections of the press, making particular note of the "racial undertones" of some coverage.

Harry and Meghan have seemed to increase efforts to maintain a level of privacy since their wedding and the birth in May of Archie, their first child.

They upended recent royal tradition by choosing to keep details of Archie's birth and christening private. They also chose to move from Kensington Palace in London to Frogmore Cottage, a more secluded home on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Earlier this year Harry received an apology and won a court victory against paparazzi who took photos of his and Meghan's country home in Oxfordshire.

As part of the court agreement, Splash News, which chartered a helicopter to take the photos, agreed to pay what Buckingham Palace called a "substantial sum" in damages and legal costs.

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