Prince Harry blocked the use of leaked documents in the case against the publisher of the Daily Mail

Seven high-profile figures have joined forces to accuse Associated Newspapers of alleged unlawful information gathering.

The other claimants are Sir Elton’s husband David Furnish, 61, actresses Sadie Frost, 58, and Liz Hurley, 58, and Sir Simon Hughes, a former Lib Dem MP, 72.

The allegations include hiring private investigators to plant listening devices in cars, “taping” private data, and watching and recording private telephone conversations.

The newspaper group requested that the claims be dismissed without trial for two reasons; that they were too old to be considered by the court and that some of the financial documents relied on by the claimants were provided confidentially to the Leveson Inquiry and used in breach of a restriction order.

Mr Justice Nicklin, who heard four days of arguments in March 2023, delivered his ruling on Friday.

He said Associated had “failed to deliver a ‘knockout blow’ to these plaintiffs’ claims” and rejected the publisher’s argument that the claim was time-barred.

However, the judge agreed with the newspaper publisher that the ledgers were subject to a restriction order and should not be used as evidence.

In order to rely on these documents during the trial, he said the claimants would need approval from the ministers who took over responsibility for the investigation: Lucy Frazer, the Minister of Culture and/or Suella Braverman, the Minister of the Interior .

David Sherborne, who represents all seven claimants, also represented key participants in the Leveson inquiry.

‘Important victory for justice’

However, the lawyer told the court in March 2023 that the documents were leaked by “an investigative journalist at an online media publication who did not reveal his source.”

He said it could not be proven that they were leaked from the investigation.

Associated called the ruling an “important victory for justice and the postal service.”

The publisher, whose parent company, DMGT, has expressed an interest in buying the Telegraph, said in a statement: “As we have always made unequivocally clear, the lurid claims made by Prince Harry and others about phone hacking, eavesdropping landlines, burglary and sticky window microphones are absolutely ridiculous and we look forward to establishing this in court in due course.”

Lawyers for the duke and others said they were “delighted” with the ruling, which will allow their claims to proceed to trial.

The judge said each claimant had a “real prospect” of showing that Associated concealed the relevant facts, preventing them from making a valuable claim before October 2016.

‘Hidden from claimants’

In many cases, he said, they could prove that further means were used in the published articles to ‘debunk’ the subject.”

“While it is established that the publication of unlawful articles was not concealed, they were only the tip of the iceberg in the plaintiffs’ case,” the judge said.

“What was deliberately concealed from the plaintiffs – if they are correct in their claims – were the underlying unlawful acts that were allegedly used to obtain information for subsequent publication.”

The duke, whose claim covers a period “from at least as early as 2001” to “2013 and beyond”, appeared unannounced at the High Court in March 2023 to lend his support to the claim.

The plaintiffs said: “The Supreme Court has rejected Associated Newspapers’ attempt to dismiss these cases ‘without issue’.

“Indeed, the judge found that all of our claims had a real prospect of showing that there had been a concealment of unlawful acts by the Mail titles and that this could only have been discovered recently. Our claims can now go to trial.”

They said the decision not to allow use of the ledgers only “delays the inevitable,” and stressed that they would ultimately have to be produced by Associated during the course of the claim.

Associated strongly denies the allegations, which it has described as “ridiculous slander” and a “pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to implicate the Mail titles in the phone hacking scandal”.

A new hearing is scheduled for November 21, 2023.

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