Prince Harry among those united in cracking down on the Daily Mail publisher

Prince Harry, Sir Elton John and the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence have filed a joint lawsuit against the Daily Mail’s publisher for “gross data breaches” through unlawful reporting.

The lawsuit against Associated Newspapers embroils the owner of Britain’s best-selling print publication for the first time in lawsuits over phone hacking and unlawful reporting similar to those that have plagued Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday by a group including the Duke of Sussex; musician John and his partner David Furnish; actresses Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost; and Baroness Doreen Lawrence, whose son Stephen was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.

The plaintiffs allege that Associated Newspapers, whose publications include the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, were involved in “heinous criminal activities” that invaded their private lives. Associated Newspapers dismissed the “unsubstantiated and highly defamatory allegations.”

The allegation includes allegations that the news group hired private investigators to “surreptitiously place listening devices in people’s cars and homes,” according to a statement from the group’s law firm Hamlins.

Other allegations include other forms of phone tapping; payments to police officers for sensitive information; identity theft for access to private medical records; and using illegal means to access financial records.

Associated Newspapers said: “We firmly and unequivocally reject these absurd slurs, which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal affecting articles dated up to 30 years ago are years old.

“These baseless and highly libelous allegations – based on no credible evidence – appear to be simply a fishing expedition by plaintiffs and their attorneys, some of whom have already prosecuted cases elsewhere.”

Associated Newspapers is part of the Daily Mail and General Trust, the holding company of Jonathan Harmsworth, fourth Viscount Rothermere.

Most of the plaintiffs settled via phone hacking with Murdoch’s NewsUK, owner of the Sun and the defunct News of the World. In all, News UK has paid more than half a billion dollars for phone hacking-related settlements.

Despite these payouts to victims of phone hacking, News UK, which owns the Sun and the Times and Sunday Times newspapers, is still facing dozens of lawsuits from sports stars, celebrities and politicians more than a decade after the scandal broke. Several lawsuits have recently been filed against the Sun newspaper.

Earlier this year, it emerged that the News Group Newspapers phone-hacking scandal hacked another $49 million in the year through June 2021 to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone.

Reach, which owns the Daily Mirror, is also still facing a number of lawsuits. Prince Harry has a case in court alleging alleged wrongdoing at the Sun, News of the World and against the publishers of the Mirror.

Lawrence has not previously been involved in any phone hacking lawsuits and has in the past praised the Daily Mail for helping highlight the shortcomings of the justice system in prosecuting her son Stephen’s killers.

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, successfully sued the publishers of the Mail on Sunday after the newspaper published excerpts of a letter she had written to her father. The Sussexes cited their dissatisfaction with British tabloid culture as a factor in their decision to move to America in 2020 and give up their positions within the royal family. Prince Harry among those united in cracking down on the Daily Mail publisher

Adam Bradshaw

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