Judge Orders Prince Harry to Conduct Wider Evidence Search in Lawsuit Against Murdoch’s Newspaper Group

A trial for some of these claims, potentially including Harry's, is set to begin at the High Court in London in January next year.

Prince Harry was ordered on Thursday to conduct wider searches for emails, text messages, and other relevant material in his lawsuit against Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper arm.

This decision comes amid concerns that some evidence may have been destroyed.

Harry, 39, the younger son of Britain’s King Charles, along with over 40 others, is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) for alleged unlawful activities by journalists and private investigators from The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s.

A trial for some of these claims, potentially including Harry’s, is set to begin at the High Court in London in January next year.

NGN, which contests the claims, has paid hundreds of millions of pounds to victims of phone-hacking by News of the World and settled over 1,300 lawsuits but denies wrongdoing by The Sun’s staff.

Ahead of the trial, NGN’s legal team requested an order compelling Harry to disclose any relevant information he might possess or that might be held by his former lawyers or the royal household, pertinent to his knowledge of alleged unlawful behavior before the end of 2013.

If Harry knew of a potential claim against NGN before that date, the case could be dismissed for being filed too late.

“I have real concerns that the issue of disclosure related to the ‘knowledge issue’ has not been dealt with adequately by the claimants’ solicitors,” said Judge Timothy Fancourt, noting that only five relevant documents had been produced.

He added that it was inappropriate for Harry to handle most of the searching and selection of relevant documents until recently.

NGN’s lawyer, Anthony Hudson, accused Harry of creating an “obstacle course” on the issue, stating, “We have had to drag those out of the claimant kicking and screaming.”

Fancourt pointed to “troubling evidence” that numerous potentially relevant documents and messages between Harry and J.R. Moehringer, the ghostwriter of his memoir “Spare,” over messaging app Signal had been destroyed.

“The position is not transparently clear about what happened,” he said.

Harry’s lawyer, David Sherborne, countered that NGN’s accusations were a “fishing expedition” and called the suggestion that Harry was withholding or destroying material the “height of hypocrisy,” noting NGN’s history of deliberately deleting emails to hide evidence.

Fancourt ruled for a wider search of Harry’s laptop, text, and WhatsApp messages from 2005 to early 2023 and an attempt to retrieve the Signal exchanges.

Harry must also produce a witness statement about the Moehringer exchange and request documents from the royal household.

The judge ordered Harry to make an interim payment of £60,000 to NGN for hearing costs.