In a significant victory for Prince Harry, a British judge ruled on Friday that Mirror Group Newspapers had engaged in illegal activity, including phone hacking and hiring private investigators to obtain personal information. This ruling marks another chapter in the ongoing saga of lawbreaking by Britain's tabloid press, a tale that has been unfolding for years.
Phone hacking was a common practice employed by tabloid newspapers in the pre-digital era. By dialing someone's number and entering a default PIN, journalists were able to access their voice messages. The targets of this illegal activity included members of the royal family, politicians, athletes, celebrities, and ordinary citizens who found themselves in the public eye.
The first major revelation about phone hacking came in 2007 when the royal editor of the News of the World and a private investigator were jailed for eavesdropping on messages left by Prince William and others. This scandal was initially dismissed as the work of rogue employees, but in 2011, it was revealed that the News of the World had hacked the phone of a 13-year-old girl who was later found murdered. This revelation led to public outrage and the eventual closure of the newspaper.
In the aftermath of these scandals, a judge-led public inquiry into media ethics was established, which recommended the creation of a strong press watchdog backed by government regulation. However, many segments of the press have resisted these recommendations, fearing state interference.
The recent ruling against Mirror Group Newspapers has shed further light on the extent of the wrongdoing within the tabloid press. The judge found that the company had concealed its illegal activities from the board, Parliament, the public, and even the Leveson Inquiry, a government-led investigation into media ethics.
Prince Harry, who has been a vocal critic of the tabloid press, was awarded modest damages in the case. However, the ruling could have far-reaching implications for Mirror Group Newspapers, as it may strengthen the claims of other alleged victims who have filed lawsuits against the company.
In his statement, Prince Harry called for criminal charges to be brought against those involved in the lawbreaking. The case has also placed pressure on individuals such as broadcaster Piers Morgan, a former Daily Mirror editor who has consistently denied knowledge of phone hacking during his tenure.
While this ruling is a significant milestone in the battle against tabloid lawbreaking, it is unlikely to be the end of the story. The saga of Britain's tabloid press continues to unfold, and further revelations and legal actions may be yet to come.