Harry's lawyer calls Piers Morgan's trial no-show 'fatal'

Video prince harry piers morgan

LONDON, June 27 (Reuters) – Prince Harry’s lawyer said on Tuesday a British publisher’s failure to call witnesses such as Piers Morgan was a fatal blow to its defence against allegations brought by the royal and others of unlawful behaviour by its tabloid papers.

The prince and 100 others are suing Mirror Group Newspapers(MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, over allegations of phone-hacking and unlawful information-gathering between 1991 and 2011.

They claim senior editors and executives at MGN knew about and approved of the wrongdoing. MGN, owned by Reach (RCH.L), is fighting the lawsuit, saying there was no evidence for the accusations.

In his closing submissions, the claimants’ lawyer David Sherborne said MGN had called just three journalists during the six-week trial at London’s High Court to rebut the allegations, with Piers Morgan, the Daily Mirror’s former editor and now a high-profile TV presenter, one of those notably absent.

The claimants want the judge to rule on whether Morgan and other senior figures were involved in unlawful acts. Morgan himself has always denied any knowledge or role in wrongdoing, and said, after the trial started, he would not “take lectures on privacy invasion from Prince Harry”.

“Rather than come and give evidence to meet (the allegations), he has chosen instead to confine his comments to outside the courtroom,” Sherborne said. MGN’s failure to call Morgan and other journalists “leaves enormous holes, we say fatal holes, in the defendant’s case,” he said.

The publisher said calling Morgan as a witness would have become a “disproportionate and unnecessary” sideshow and the accusations against him were irrelevant.

“Mr Morgan is a high-profile individual, and the allegations against him have generated a lot of publicity,” MGN’s lawyers said in written submissions.

“However, it is not necessary for the allegations against him to be determined, and if – which is denied – it is necessary those matters are perfectly capable of resolution on the documentary evidence.”

‘INDUSTRIAL SCALE’

Harry, the Duke of Sussex, became the first senior royal to give evidence in court for 130 years when he appeared this month for a day-and-a-half of questioning in the witness box.

The fifth-in-line to the throne said he believed phone- hacking took place on an industrial scale at MGN’s titles and he would feel a sense of injustice if the court did not conclude he was a victim.

In its submissions, MGN’s lawyers said his “undoubtedly fair resentment about his treatment by British and international media for many years” had been channelled into his legal action against the publisher, and was not for compensation but part of his “campaign to ‘reform’ the British press”.

“In seeking to hold one element of the tabloid press to account for intrusion the Duke of Sussex believes he has suffered at the hands of all press … he has advanced a claim which is wildly overstated and substantially baseless,” the submission said.

At the start of the trial in May, MGN did admit on one occasion a private investigator had been engaged to unlawfully gather evidence about him. However, it said he should receive no more than 500 pounds in damages.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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