Harry and Piers Morgan in war of words after prince awarded payout in Mirror phone hacking claim

The Duke of Sussex and Piers Morgan have become embroiled in a public war of words after the prince was awarded further “substantial” damages in his phone hacking claim against the publisher of the Daily Mirror.

Harry hit out at Mr Morgan after he reached a settlement with Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), which will pay Harry the damages, as well as all of the costs of his claim. His barrister said this included an interim payment towards the costs of £400,000.

In a statement read outside the High Court by his barrister David Sherborne, the prince said the former Mirror editor “knew perfectly well” that phones were being hacked.

He added: “In light of this, we call again for the authorities to uphold the rule of law and to prove that no one is above it. That includes Mr Morgan, who as editor knew perfectly well what was going on, as the judge held.

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“His contempt for the court’s ruling and his continued attacks ever since demonstrate why it was so important to obtain a clear and detailed judgment.”

But the journalist and TV presenter hit back in a post on X, responding: “I totally agree with Prince Harry that ruthless intrusion into the private lives of the Royal Family for financial gain is utterly reprehensible… and I hope he stops doing it.”

Harry with David Sherborne in London last year (PA Archive)
Harry with David Sherborne in London last year (PA Archive)

A judge ruled at the same court in December that Mr Morgan knew about and was involved in phone hacking when he was editor of the Daily Mirror as the duke won damages of £140,600 against MGN.

Speaking to reporters outside his west London home, Mr Morgan responded to the ruling: “I want to reiterate, as I’ve consistently said for many years now – I’ve never hacked a phone or told anybody else to hack a phone. And nobody has produced any actual evidence to prove that I did.”

He insisted he had “zero knowledge” of the single article published in his time as editor of the Daily Mirror that may have involved illegal information gathering, before launching a scathing attack on Harry. The TV presenter branded the duke “ruthless, greedy and hypocritical”, as he accused him of trying “to destroy the British monarchy”.

Morgan outside his home in London on Friday (PA)
Morgan outside his home in London on Friday (PA)

In his statement, Harry said his case has uncovered the “shockingly dishonest way” the Daily Mirror acted “for so many years”, as he called the judgment “extremely damaging”.

The duke vowed that his “mission continues”, as he believes in the “positive change it will bring for all of us”, amid ongoing legal battles against the UK tabloid media.

The settlement comes after a trial last June, in which the duke became the first royal to step inside the witness box, with the judge finding that 15 out of 33 articles under consideration had been the product of unlawful information gathering.

Harry at a Las Vegas awards ceremony on Thursday (AP)
Harry at a Las Vegas awards ceremony on Thursday (AP)

They included articles about his relationship with former girlfriend Chelsy Davy, a discussion with his brother about meeting with Princess Diana’s former butler, and allegations that he had smoked cannabis.

A further 115 articles were in his claim, which may have been the subject of a further trial. Last month, Harry threatened to pursue a second trial regarding the remaining articles, after only the sample of 33 were selected for the trial last year.

However, Mr Sherborne confirmed on Friday that MGN had offered to settle the claim, saying the company will pay Harry “a substantial additional sum by way of damages” as well as his legal costs.

The court had previously found that phone hacking became “widespread and habitual” at MGN titles in the late 1990s and was practised “even to some extent” during the Leveson Inquiry into press standards in 2011.

David Sherborne speaking to the media outside of the Rolls Building in central London on Friday (PA)
David Sherborne speaking to the media outside of the Rolls Building in central London on Friday (PA)

In the latest ruling, Mr Justice Fancourt said the publisher should pay so-called “generic” legal costs to the more than 100 people currently involved in the legal action.

At a hearing last month, the High Court in London heard that the group of people who sued the Mirror publisher were seeking payment of £1,976,660 from MGN towards the legal costs of bringing “generic” allegations to court.

In December, the duke said his case against MGN was “a great day for truth, as well as accountability” and called on the police to investigate the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People.

The latest development in Harry’s ongoing legal battle against the tabloid media comes just days after his flying visit to the UK to reunite with his father, who announced his cancer diagnosis on Monday.

However, after travelling from the US to London within 24 hours of the news, the duke reportedly met with the King at Clarence House for less than an hour on Tuesday. He returned to his home in California the following day without having seen his estranged brother Prince William.

Prince Harry  arriving at Clarence House on Tuesday (Reuters)
Prince Harry arriving at Clarence House on Tuesday (Reuters)

The siblings have endured a well-publicised fractured relationship in recent years, following Harry and his wife Meghan’s decision to step back as senior royals in January 2020 and leave for the US. In the wake of the move, multiple grievances were then shared by the couple as to their alleged treatment at the hands of the royal family.

Harry’s case against MGN was heard alongside similar claims brought by actor Michael Turner, who is known professionally as Michael Le Vell and is most famous for playing Kevin Webster in Coronation Street, actress Nikki Sanderson and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.

Claims brought by Ms Sanderson and Ms Wightman were dismissed by Mr Justice Fancourt because they were made too late, despite the judge finding that some of their complaints were proved.

An MGN spokesperson said: “We welcomed December’s judgment that gave the business the necessary clarity to move forward from events that took place many years ago. Where historical wrongdoing took place, we apologise unreservedly, have taken full responsibility and paid compensation.”