Prince Harry was accused of wasting the court’s time in his phone-hacking lawsuit against a tabloid newspaper, and left the judge overseeing his case “visibly irritated” because he did not show up for the first day of his trial, as the judge had instructed him.
The Duke of Sussex had been ordered by the judge to be present in the High Court in London Monday, in the expectation that the court would be ready for him to start testifying Monday afternoon against the publisher of the Daily Mirror, the London Times, Telegraph and Guardian all reported. Instead, Harry left California Sunday evening — Monday morning in the U.K. — having the spent Sunday celebrating the second birthday of his daughter, Princess Lilibet Diana, at his and Meghan Markle’s home in Montecito, his attorney, David Sherborne told the court.
In expressing concern that the duke failed to appear, Mr Justice Fancourt, the trial judge, said, “I am a little surprised that (despite) the direction I gave . . . that the first witness (Harry) is not going to be available.”
Fancourt said he expected that Harry could begin testifying after lunch, which is “why I directed that the first witness be available.” The Guardian said the judge was “visibly irritated,” though he adopted measured tones when speaking in court.
Sherborne insisted that his royal client “obviously” belonged in “a different category” than other witnesses in the case, due to his “trickier” travel and security arrangements, which includes having to fly all the way from California, the Times said. Sherborne said Harry would be ready to testify Tuesday.
But Andrew Green, the attorney for the Mirror Newspaper Group, expressed outrage that Harry couldn’t make it to court as the judge instructed. He said he was “deeply troubled” that the duke failed to show up and accused him of wasting the court’s time. “It is absolutely extraordinary,” said Green, noting that he has “quite a lot to get through” and expected that he would need at least a day and a half to cross-examine the duke.
Green added: “We have done everything we can to be responsible and not waste court time. Now we are going to have some wasted time this afternoon.”
The judge said he did not want to spend any more time discussing Harry’s failure to appear, “as it appears nothing can be be done.”
Media from around the world gathered at the court Monday, expecting Harry to appear and to become the first senior member of the royal family in more than 130 years to testify in a court case, the Times said.
The duke claims he was the victim of unlawful information gathering by the Mirror Group Newspapers, along with his father, King Charles, his brother, Prince William, and his late mother, Diana, the Princess of Wales.
Harry specifically alleges that he was the victim of voicemail hacking, inquiries by private investigators and other methods of illegal news gathering, leading to the publication of about 140 articles about him between 1996 and 2010. The Daily Mail’s publisher has told the court that many of these stories came from lawful news-gathering methods, including “information disclosed by or on behalf of royal households or members of the royal family,” The Telegraph said.
Harry is one of a number of high-profile figures suing the Mirror Group Newspapers, which also includes the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People. Harry’s case is one of several “test cases” in the trial against the Daily Mirror publisher, which is being heard for six or seven weeks.
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