Prince Harry made a surprise appearance at court today as the publisher of the Daily Mail tried to throw out claims of unlawful information gathering by citing the Duke of Sussex's own memoir.
Harry is joined by six other high-profile figures — Baroness Lawrence, actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost, Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish and ex-MP Simon Hughes — in alleging newspapers published by Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) gathered information on them unlawfully.
This includes the hiring of private investigators to place listening devices inside cars and homes, the “blagging” of private records and the accessing and recording of private phone conversations.
Lawyers for Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), which is also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, has firmly denied the allegations and said the “stale” claims have been brought too late and that the case should be thrown out before it goes to trial.
Watch: Prince Harry arrives at court for hacking claims hearing
ANL are arguing that Harry knew extensively about allegations surrounding unlawful information gathering "long before October 2016" and that any claim he has is outside the statute of limitations and should be dismissed.
In court documents seen by Yahoo, it emerged ANL is using Harry's recently released memoir, Spare, to try to prove that he was more fully aware of certain allegations made about him earlier than he says.
ANL cites a section of Harry's claim that he "was probably aware of only a small percentage of the articles Associated wrote about me at the time”.
But ANL lawyers claim that Harry's own memoir demonstrates he was aware of the phone hacking scandal in the late 2000s that ultimately led to the closing down of the News of the World and subsequent Leveson Inquiry into press behaviour in 2011.
They quote from his memoir, which talks about the "prosecution of journalists from the News of the World and Ms Brooks in particular, describing being 'overjoyed' at her arrest and his 'chipper mood' at the 'death rattles coming from the most popular Sunday newspaper, Murdoch's News of the World. The leading culprit in the hacking scandal...'"
Their defence adds in relation to Leveson: "However, perhaps surprisingly for someone who claims to have paid little attention, the Duke states that he has a clear recollection of the denials given by Mr Dacre [the former editor of the Daily Mail]."
In Harry's witness statement, he acknowledges that while he does refer to phone hacking in his memoir, but that his comments "do not relate to Associated not least because at the time I believed their sworn testimonies".
On the first of a four-day hearing in central London, Judge Nicklin agreed with ANL's request for a reporting restriction that means some journalists accused of illegal activity will have their anonymity maintained at this stage: instead a cipher will be used, which will be the letter J accompanied by a number.
David Sherborne — the barrister representing the claimants — called arguments made by ANL's legal team that these journalists needed anonymity "rather rich". The publisher has previously been on the other end of this legal argument and said parties who have never been employed by them should not be granted anonymity in their reports.
Harry and the other claimants have alleged that they were "victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy" by ANL.
The publisher denies the allegations and has previously described them as “preposterous smears” and a “pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal”.