- Mar 15, 2023
The trial involving allegations of phone hacking by the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has begun, and already there have been some significant developments. One of the most notable is MGN's apology to Prince Harry for hacking into his voicemail shortly after he had left a message for his then-girlfriend Chelsy Davy.
The apology came during the opening statement of the trial, which is being heard at the High Court in London. It was read out on behalf of MGN's parent company, Reach PLC, by its lawyer, Anthony Hudson QC.
In his statement, Hudson said: "Through me, Reach plc apologises to the claimant for the damage, intrusion and distress caused to him by the accessing of his voicemail messages and for any of the other unlawful information gathering that took place."
The apology to Prince Harry is just one of the many allegations of phone hacking that MGN is facing. The company is accused of accessing the voicemails of numerous celebrities and public figures, including actor Jude Law, former footballer Paul Gascoigne, and former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
The trial is expected to last several weeks and will hear evidence from a number of witnesses, including former MGN journalists and editors. It is also likely to focus on the methods used by the company to obtain information, which are alleged to have included hacking into voicemails, blagging and other forms of deception.
The trial is not just about the actions of MGN, however. It is also about the culture of the press in the UK and the extent to which it has been willing to intrude into the private lives of public figures in pursuit of a story. In recent years, there have been a number of high-profile cases involving phone hacking and other forms of intrusion by the press, which has led to a public outcry and calls for greater regulation.
One of the key issues in the trial is likely to be the question of whether MGN's actions were systematic and widespread, or whether they were the result of a few rogue journalists. The company has already admitted liability for some of the allegations of phone hacking, but it is contesting others.
The trial is also likely to hear evidence about the impact of phone hacking on the victims. Many of those whose phones were hacked have spoken publicly about the distress and intrusion they experienced as a result. Some have also argued that the actions of the press have had a chilling effect on their ability to speak freely and openly.
The trial is taking place against the backdrop of a wider debate about the role of the press in society. In recent years, there have been calls for greater regulation of the press, particularly in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. Some argue that the press has a responsibility to act in the public interest, while others believe that it should be free to pursue stories without interference.
The outcome of the trial is likely to have significant implications for the press in the UK. If MGN is found to have engaged in systematic and widespread phone hacking, it could lead to calls for greater regulation and a tightening of the laws governing the press. On the other hand, if the company is cleared of some or all of the allegations, it could be seen as a victory for press freedom.
Whatever the outcome of the trial, it is clear that it will have far-reaching implications for the press in the UK and for the relationship between the media and the public. It is likely to be a contentious and highly charged trial, with both sides arguing their case vigorously. Ultimately, it will be up to the judge to decide whether MGN is guilty of the allegations of phone hacking, and what the consequences of that might be.