Prince Harry loses latest court bid to include Rupert Murdoch allegations in phone hacking claims

Prince Harry arriving at High Court in June 2023
Prince Harry faces setback in legal action against NGN (Getty)

The Duke of Sussex cannot extend his legal action against News Group Newspapers (NGN) to include new allegations against Rupert Murdoch, a High Court judge has ruled.

Prince Harry and actor Hugh Grant are suing NGN, publisher of The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World, over alleged unlawful information-gathering.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Fancourt ruled the new claims against "trophy targets" such as Mr Murdoch and other senior NGN executives could not be taken to a trial scheduled for January next year, stating they added "nothing material", but said some other amendments could be made.

He added: "I also consider that there is a desire on the part of those running the litigation on the claimants' side to shoot at 'trophy' targets, whether those are political issues or high-profile individuals. This cannot become an end in itself: it only matters to the court so far as it is material and proportionate to the resolution of the individual causes of action. The trial is not an inquiry."

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Barristers representing various individuals suing the company claimed earlier this year that Mr Murdoch knew of unlawful activity as early as 2004 but "turned a blind eye" to the accusations while overseeing a "culture of impunity" at the publisher.

They asked the court to update parts of their case after the release of further information and to change parts of the Duke's claim to include allegations that NGN unlawfully gathered private information on the 39-year-old from the age of nine.

NGN denies the accusations, with its lawyers previously telling the court that the new claims were a "scurrilous and cynical attack".

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch was executive chairman of News Corp and director of NGN’s parent company and News Corp’s subsidiary, News International, now News UK, at the time the paper closed (Getty)

In relation to Harry's claim, Mr Justice Fancourt said that the Duke could only make some changes to his individual case, ruling that he could not introduce new allegations from 1994, 1995 and 2016 or new allegations of phone hacking.

But he granted permission for Harry "in principle" to change the details of his case to name "certain further journalists and private investigators", and bring allegations of "landline voicemail interception".

Harry’s claim is currently set to go to trial in January 2025.

Hugh Grant arriving at court in NGN privacy case in April 2023
Actor Hugh Grant has also brought legal action against NGN (Getty)

A spokesperson for NGN said: "At a hearing in March 2024, the claimants sought to introduce wide-ranging allegations into their pleadings.

"NGN argued that a number of these were irrelevant to the fair and just determination of claims, and had nothing to do with seeking compensation for victims of phone hacking or unlawful information-gathering.

"The court in its judgment today has thoroughly vindicated NGN's position and did not give permission to introduce large and significant portions of the amendments."