In court documents published Wednesday on the first day of a phone hacking trial, Mirror Group Newspapers, which is now owned by Reach, said it “unreservedly apologizes and accepts that [Harry] is entitled to appropriate compensation” for one instance of unlawful information gathering nearly 20 years ago.
The incident involved a private investigator, who was paid £75 ($95) in 2004 by the Sunday People, a tabloid owned by the same group, to gather information about the Duke of Sussex while at a London nightclub.
“[Mirror Group Newspapers] does not know what information this related to, although it clearly had some connection with his conduct at the nightclub,” the publisher said, admitting that the payment “represented an instruction to engage in [unlawful information gathering].”
The Duke of Sussex and three other claimants representing dozens of celebrities are suing Mirror Group Newspapers, accusing its titles of obtaining private information by phone hacking and through other illicit means, including private investigators, between 1991 and 2011.
Mirror Group Newspapers is contesting most of the allegations, arguing in its court filings that some claims have been brought too late and that in all four cases there is insufficient evidence of phone hacking.
The case against the newspaper publisher is one of several lawsuits filed by Harry and his wife, Meghan, in their long-running battle with British tabloids, which they have accused of breaches of privacy and publishing false stories.
The pair has filed at least seven lawsuits against British and US media organizations since 2019, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, according to Reuters. News Group Newspapers publishes the Sun and used to produce News of the World, which was shut down in 2011 over its own phone hacking scandal.
On Wednesday, Harry’s lawyer, David Sherborne said his claim against Mirror Group Newspapers, which covers incidences from 1995 to 2011, is “significant not just in terms of time span but in the range of activity it covers.”
Harry was subject to the most “intrusive methods of obtaining personal information,” Sherborne said, arguing that “no one should be subjected to that.” The “unlawful methods” were “habitual and widespread” among journalists and editors, Sherborne added.
The Duke of Sussex was not present for the first day of the hearing at London’s High Court, which comes just days after he attended the coronation of his father, King Charles III, in nearby Westminster Abbey. He is due to give evidence himself in June, according to UK media.
The trial, expected to last seven weeks, will also review claims made along similar lines by English actress Nikki Sanderson, the comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman and the actor Michael Turner.
A spokesperson for Mirror Group Newspapers said in a statement Wednesday that “where historical wrongdoing” has taken place, the group has taken “full responsibility” and apologized “unreservedly” for its actions.
Mirror Group Newspapers “is now part of a very different company. We are committed to acting with integrity and our objective in this trial is to allow both the business and our journalists to move forward from events that took place many years ago,” the statement added.
Opening arguments in the case are expected to extend into Friday.