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Prince Harry, in U.K. court for phone hacking trial, blasts "utterly vile" actions of British tabloids

London — Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, appeared in a U.K. court Tuesday to testify as part of his lawsuit against Britain's Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN). The 38-year-old second son of Britain's King Charles III, who is suing the tabloid publisher over alleged unlawful information gathering, blasted the tabloid press.

"It was a downward spiral, whereby the tabloids would constantly try and coax me, a 'damaged' young man, into doing something stupid that would make a good story and sell lots of newspapers," Harry said in a lengthy written statement released Tuesday as he appeared in London's High Court. "Looking back on it now, such behavior on their part is utterly vile."

MGN's lawyer, Andrew Green, questioned Harry about the details of tabloid articles referenced in his suit and the prince's claims about how the information in them was gathered. He argued that some of the stories were already in the public domain.

At the end of Tuesday's proceedings, Harry was told his testimony would continue on Wednesday and instructed not to speak with anyone about it overnight.

A sketch shows Prince Harry in U.K. court on Tuesday, June 6 2023. Julia Quenzler via BBC News

"I genuinely feel that in every relationship that I've ever had — be that with friends, girlfriends, with family or with the army, there's always been a third party involved, namely the tabloid press," Harry's witness statement said.

"I felt that I couldn't trust anybody, which was an awful feeling for me especially at such a young age. As I am uncovering the extent of the unlawful activities carried out by MGN's journalist and senior executives towards me, I feel somewhat relieved to know that my paranoia towards my friends and family had, in fact, been misplaced, although feel sad for how much it impacted my adolescence," Harry said.

Why is Prince Harry in court?

The suit, involving test cases from Harry and three other well-known British claimants, alleges that journalists working for MGN gathered information about the prince unlawfully, including by hacking into voicemails. It involves 207 newspaper articles published between 1991 and 2011 — 33 of which refer to Harry.

The claimants argue that senior executives, including Piers Morgan — who edited the Daily Mirror newspaper from 1995 to 2004 — knew of the illegal activities. Morgan has denied any knowledge of illegal activities.

Prince Harry: The 60 Minutes Interview 26:52

MGN has previously admitted that phone hacking took place at its tabloids, but its lawyer denies that 28 of the 33 articles involving Harry used unlawfully-gathered information. He said the group had "not admitted" that the other five articles involved unlawful information gathering, according to the BBC.

In his witness statement, Harry said, "the tabloids have known the challenges and mental health struggles that I have had to deal with throughout my childhood and adult life and for them to then play on that and use it to their own advantage, I think is, well, criminal."

Harry is the first senior member of Britain's royal family to appear in a court to give testimony and face cross-examination since the 19th century. 

The prince had been instructed to attend the first day of court proceedings on Monday, in case he was needed, but he was not there. The Associated Press quoted Harry's lawyer on Monday as telling the court that the prince had flown out Sunday from Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and their children, after celebrating his daughter's birthday.

Prince Harry's a no-show on first day of phone hacking trial 06:34

The judge, Justice Timothy Fancourt, told the court on Monday that he was "a little surprised" by Harry's absence on the first day. 

MGN's lawyer, Green, said Monday that he was "deeply troubled" by the prince's non-appearance.

"They're the mothership of online trolling. Trolls react and mobilise to stories they create," Harry said, of the media. "How much more blood will stain their typing fingers before someone can put a stop to this madness."

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