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Their nightmare litigant

For any media organisation that indulged in phone hacking, Prince Harry is the person you least want to face a legal challenge from.

By James Evelegh

Their nightmare litigant
Prince Harry: “The mission continues.”

He’s a man with a burning sense of grievance, deep pockets and zero interest in settling. He wants his day(s) in court.

Last Friday, he got one, and came away with £140,600 in damages after winning his hacking case against the Daily Mirror.

But the money is incidental.

Harry’s stated mission in life is to change the media landscape in the UK. Many thought he’d bitten off more than he could chew when he first revealed that; now people are not so sure.

“I’ve been told that slaying dragons will get you burned,” he said in a statement on Friday: “The mission continues.”

He’s only 39, so could string this vendetta out for decades to come.

With the passage of time, it’s perhaps easy to forget or make light of the phone hacking scandal, but it’s worth remembering that for the victims, the hacking of their phones was a life changing event.

In 2015, in her case against Mirror Group journalists accused of hacking her phone, the actress Sadie Frost described the period as a “living hell”.

As reported by the BBC at the time, she told the court: “Your father is dying, you are going through divorce, you have postnatal depression, you are in and out of hospital, my baby was ill, he was born premature.

“I was at breaking point, I could not sleep, or eat, and I did not know who to trust as information kept getting into the media.

“I needed my loved ones around me. I was very upset, I was a very, very unhappy person.

“Every time I turned to someone to confide in them, it ended up in the newspapers, which added to my distress and trauma.

“I couldn’t go and sit with my mum and have a cup of tea because I thought she was selling stories. I didn’t trust my own mother.”

Speaking of her separation from fellow actor Jude Law, she said: “I thought it might be Jude, trying to make me look bad for custody reasons, or my friends or family using me for their own gains. Either thought was heartbreaking.

“This was a deeply stressful time in my life and the fact my insecurities were being publicised obviously made it worse.”

She described how friends, particularly model Kate Moss, questioned whether they could trust her.

It’s a distressing account of someone’s life falling apart, caused by the reckless and unscrupulous intrusion by some sections of the press into her private life, for their commercial gain.

The phone hacking scandal continues to cast a long shadow and that commercial gain has turned sour. The frustration for those newspaper groups that feel they’ve now put their house in order is that it’s not over yet.

The one silver lining is that the eye-watering costs having to be paid out as a result of historical illegal activities should keep everyone on the straight and narrow for years to come.

You can catch James Evelegh’s regular column in the InPubWeekly newsletter, which you can register to receive here.