London’s High Court ruled on Thursday, July 27, that Harry’s lawsuit accusing NGN, which owns The Sun, can move forward, but Judge Timothy Fancourt threw out the phone hacking allegations for being too old. Fancourt said that the Duke of Sussex, 38, was aware of the British phone hacking scandal and could have brought those claims earlier but ruled that the case can proceed on allegations about other unlawful information gathering.
Harry’s legal team previously argued that he couldn’t file a phone hacking lawsuit earlier because of a “secret agreement” between British newspapers and the royal family. Harry claimed his late grandmother Queen Elizabeth II approved the alleged deal, which would have prevented royal family members from having to go to court for questioning about potentially embarrassing voicemails obtained by reporters.
Harry said he became aware of the alleged deal in 2012 after he and his brother, Prince William, were told they couldn’t bring their own legal action against NGN because of the agreement. In April, Harry claimed in court documents that William, 41, settled with NGN for a “very large sum” in 2020 over historical phone hacking.
NGN, however, denied that any secret agreement existed, and Fancourt said on Thursday that Harry failed to produce any evidence that confirmed such a deal. The phone hacking claims, meanwhile, fell outside the six-year time limit for legal action.
“The remaining claims must be tried,” Fancourt said of Harry’s claims about other forms of unlawful information gathering. “I do not find this is a case where it’s possible to say one party is clearly the successful party.”
NGN previously owned News of the World, which closed in 2011. Before the outlet was shuttered, reporters used private investigators to gain access to voicemail accounts held by people of interest. In 2007, a News of the World editor and a private investigator were convicted of illegally intercepting phone messages from members of the royal family. While NGN has admitted that phone hacking took place at News of the World, the company claims no wrongdoing ever took place at The Sun.
A spokesperson for NGN called Fancourt’s ruling about the phone hacking allegations a “significant victory” that “substantially reduces the scope” of Harry’s claim against the company, per the Associated Press.
Harry is currently involved in multiple legal actions against newspapers in the U.K. over claims they unlawfully obtained information about him and his family. He is also suing the publisher of the Daily Mirror, and he is part of a group suing Associated Newspapers Limited, which owns the Daily Mail.
Last month, Harry testified against Mirror Group Newspapers, becoming the first senior royal to testify in court in more than 130 years. In his witness statement, Harry claimed that tabloid coverage of his romance with ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy was a direct cause of their split. The former couple dated off and on from 2004 to 2010.
“As my girlfriend, I trusted Chelsy with the most private of information and vice versa,” he wrote. “Ultimately, these factors led her to make the decision that a Royal life was not for her, which was incredibly upsetting for me at the time.”
The Mirror Group, meanwhile, denied hacking Harry’s phone and claimed the prince waited too long to sue. The judge in the case is expected to hand down a decision in the next two to three months.