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Prince Harry Returns to UK for Legal Battle Against Alleged Criminal Activity by UK Newspapers

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, arrived at London’s High Court on Monday for a four-day preliminary hearing in his legal action against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over allegations of unlawful information gathering. The lawsuit is a part of a group of high-profile figures, including singer Elton John, who have launched legal action against the publisher of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, and the Mail Online.

The legal action accuses ANL of engaging in various means of criminal activity to obtain information on high-profile figures over the years. Elizabeth Hurley, Sadie Frost, David Furnish, and Doreen Lawrence make up the rest of the plaintiffs behind the legal action. They claim they were “victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy,” according to a statement from their representatives at the time.

The group has accused ANL of hiring private investigators to carry out unlawful acts such as planting listening devices in homes and cars and recording private calls. It also claims the publisher would pay corrupt police officials to obtain inside information, engaged in impersonation and deception to obtain medical records, and would hack into bank accounts and financial transactions by “illicit means and manipulation.”

When the lawsuit was brought in October, the publisher rejected the allegations as “preposterous smears” and labeled the suit a “pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal,” according to Britain’s PA Media news agency.

ANL’s lawyers argued in their own written submissions that the lawsuit was brought too late and should be dismissed without trial. One of ANL’s barristers, Adrian Beltrami, said in the submissions that each claimant needs to demonstrate that they did not know, or could not have discovered earlier, that they might have been able to bring a claim against ANL for alleged misuse of their private information.

“The claimants have failed to show that they have a real prospect of discharging their burden at trial, and the court should not hesitate to dismiss these stale claims at an early stage, thereby avoiding what would otherwise be a considerable waste of time, costs and the court’s resources,” PA quoted Beltrami as saying.

David Sherborne, a lawyer for the claimants, outlined the allegations against ANL, including illegally entering private property, unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages, listening to live calls, and obtaining medical records. “The claimants each claim that in different ways they were the victim of numerous unlawful acts carried out by the defendant, or by those acting on the instructions of its newspapers, The Daily Mail and The Mail On Sunday. They range through a period from 1993 to 2011, even continuing beyond until 2018,” he wrote in submissions to the court.

The case against ANL is one of several lawsuits launched by Prince Harry in recent years. He is also suing ANL after its Mail on Sunday newspaper published a story about his separate legal proceedings against the UK’s Home Office over his family’s security arrangements when visiting Britain. Additionally, he sued the owners of UK tabloid newspapers the Sun and the Daily Mirror in 2019 over alleged historical phone hacking. The case against the publisher of the Daily Mirror is due to go to trial in May.

Prince Harry was seen sitting “towards the back of the courtroom and occasionally taking notes in a small black notebook,” PA reported. Elton John, Furnish’s husband, also made an appearance as court proceedings got underway.

The 38-year-old royal’s surprise appearance in London on Monday is thought to be his first trip back to the United Kingdom since he and his wife, Meghan, attended the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II in September. In the months since, the Sussexes have released a Netflix docu-series and the Duke’s memoir, which have provided further insight into his fractured relationship with the rest of the royal family.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s departure from their roles as senior members of the royal family in early 2020, along with their subsequent interviews and public statements, have generated intense media scrutiny and public debate. Prince Harry’s presence at the High Court on Monday reignited interest in the ongoing legal battle between him and ANL, which has been described as a “David and Goliath” struggle between the royal and the media conglomerate.

Despite the drama surrounding the case, the Duke of Sussex is not expected to reunite with his family during his current trip to the UK. According to a royal source who spoke to CNN, Prince Harry is not expected to see his brother, the Prince of Wales, and Prince William is not in Windsor as it is the school vacation. The Duke is expected to return to California, where he currently resides with his wife and two children, after the conclusion of the hearing.

The legal action against ANL is just one of several lawsuits that Prince Harry has launched in recent years. In addition to his claim against the Mail on Sunday over the publication of a private letter to his father, he is also suing the owners of UK tabloid newspapers the Sun and the Daily Mirror over alleged historical phone hacking. The case against the publisher of the Daily Mirror is due to go to trial in May.

As the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice continues, the world watches to see the outcome of the ongoing legal battle between Prince Harry and ANL, and what impact it may have on the relationship between the royal family and the media.