Prince Harry sues the Sun and the Mirror alleging phone hacking

October 5, 2019 |

A few days ago the Duchess of Sussex commenced proceedings against the Mail on Sunday alleging misuse of private information, a breach of copyright and contravention of the General Data Protection Directive. Now Prince Harry has commenced proceedings against the Sun and the Daily Mirror in relation to the hacking of his phone.

The pleadings are not public so it is not possible to comment on the technical basis for the claim however it would appear to be also a misuse of personal information case, with the hacking of his phone being used as a basis for stories.  He is using the law firm Cliffords who brought many of the claims arising out of the practice of News of the World in hacking the phones of members of the public.  Those cases settled.  It should be born in mind that, as the Media Standards Trust reported in its 52 page report,  most of the victims of phone hacking were not famous or public figures.

The reality is that in the privacy sphere the law has developed through legal action brought by the rich and/or famous with Michael Douglas, Naomi Campbell, Murray ( aka J K Rowling), Mosley and McKennitt have become plaintiffs in cases which have led the courts in the United Kingdom to ultimately fashion a tort of privacy.  It is not that they have any greater right to privacy, quite the contrary.  The commonly,falacious, argument made is that the famous have given up any right to privacy they may have had because they court the media and reveal much of their private lives.  It takes very little scratching beneath the surface of that statement to realise how nonsensical it is.  Providing some factual background, which usually is of the sort provided between casual acquaintences as part of normal social interactions, does not constitute revelation of what is objectively strictly private.  Knowing that someone has two children, one of which is in school, does not justify turning a telephoto lense on them in their home.  Similarly knowing that a person is in a relationship which he or she does not publicize, never justifies hacking that person’s phone.

Many, but not all, in the media don’t understand that a public figure is entitled to have a no go zone and that private communications should be respected.  Others are just plain confused about the issue.  The Guardian article by Gabby Hinsliff, Harry and Meghan are celebrities, but that doesn’t mean they owe us everything, reads like a written stream of consciousness where the columnist is trying to figure out which side of the fence she will land, ending up straddling the fence and throwing a shoe into the far paddock for good measure.  She has a grizzle about the media and its voracious nature and creepy (her words) demands, has a shot at Harry at his foolish rage at the celebrity culture he is part of and sort of finishing off with a whack at the case claiming it is weak and designed not for a legal solution but as a political move to push back against the media and psycho babble with the priceless piece of bad writing:

Strip away the impossibly gilded lives, and what’s left is the product of two damaged childhoods; the motherless son and the woman whose father failed to show at her wedding. For those who want their money’s worth, the pound of flesh they paid to see, here it is in all its naked glory. But it’s the crowd, not the people stripped bare before them, who seem diminished by the sight.

What dreadful purple prose apropo what though?  It is one of the lesser efforts by the Guardian which increasingly gives in to high dudgeon over proper analysis.

Harry’s case will be interesting but if history is any guide it will end up with a settlement of some sort.

Leave a Reply