Enrique de Inglaterra (38 years old) has finally decided to settle accounts with the sensationalist press -the British tabloids-, which he has considered for years his main enemy, the cause of all his ills and the ultimate reason for the death of his mother, Lady Di. “How much more blood should those typing fingers stain before someone puts an end to this madness?”, exclaimed the son of Carlos III in a 55-page witness statement submitted to the judge and prior to the oral hearing held this Tuesday , although its content has been revealed at the beginning of the session.
The document constitutes the basis on which the Duke of Sussex, along with three other plaintiffs (actors Nikki Sanderson and Michael Turner, along with Fiona Wightman, ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse), has decided to fight MGN, the editorial group that owns the Daily Mirror, whom he accuses of having obtained information about his private life illegally for years. Fundamentally, the prince accuses, through wiretapping and the hacking of his mobile devices. To the cause, however, up to 100 plaintiffs have been attached, among which are the singers Cheryl Cole, the heirs of the late George Michael or the footballer Ian Wright.
Henry of England wanted to set a precedent, and break the unwritten rule of the British royal family: Don’t explain, don’t complain (neither explain nor complain). For the first time in 130 years, a member of the Windsors has decided to sit on the bench in court to settle scores (in 1890, then-Prince Edward had to testify in a libel suit stemming from a card game).
“It was a downward spiral from the start, with the tabloids constantly trying to set me up and portray me as a troublesome young man, until they got me to do something stupid that would make a good story and sell lots of copies,” Prince Harry writes. “When I look back, I understand that it was absolutely evil behavior,” he concludes. “The press has been hostile to me since I was born,” he summarizes, in a text that contains the same accumulation of grudges, childhood traumas, and pending accounts that the second son of Carlos of England and Lady Di had already anticipated in his autobiography. Spare (In the shadowEd. Plaza & Janes).
The problem, as many experts have anticipated, is that Enrique no longer airs his grudges in a series of Netflix or in an interview with the American presenter Oprah Winfrey, but in a British court that is going to impose the burden of proof on the Duke of Sussex.
The moment of the interrogation
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At approximately 10:00 a.m. this Tuesday (11:00 a.m., Spanish peninsular time), Prince Enrique descended gently and with a slight smile from the Range Rover SUV that had transported him to the Rolls Buildings, the court complex located in the City of London (the center of financial and legal center of the metropolis) where the High Court of England and Wales holds the hearing of the case. Cameras and reporters from all over the world awaited his arrival. Half an hour later, the Duke of Sussex sat on the witness stand for cross-examination by MGN lawyer Andrew Green. “An opponent to fear, with an aggressive and sharp style on the court (…). Inflexible and tireless, especially comfortable during interrogations and with a great ability to direct unruly judges ”, defines Green on the website The Legal 500, Britain’s leading guide to lawyers and lawyers.
The Duke of Sussex had already set a dangerous precedent the day before. Recently arrived from California, where he lives with his wife, Meghan Markle, both he and his lawyers decided that his presence in the courtroom was not necessary on the day the trial began, because the day was going to be consumed with the preliminary arguments of both parts. Timothy Fancourt, the judge in charge of directing the process, could not help but be somewhat frustrated and surprised to see that the pace of the hearing had been decided for him. “It is never good to make a judge wait, although I don’t think it translates into some kind of penalty. But irritating the magistrate somehow puts Prince Harry on the defensive,” anticipated Joshua Rozenberg, a lawyer and legal analyst for the media at the BBC.
The prince’s soft tone and easy-going manner unraveled as Lawyer Green analyzed each of the 33 newspaper articles that Henry of England’s legal team has decided to present as evidence: his mother Lady Diana’s visits to Eton , the elite school where Enrique and his brother Guillermo studied; the prince’s meeting with friends in a pub from London for lunch on a Sunday; the day he broke a finger or the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday gala, his great-grandmother Elizabeth, which neither he nor her brother attended because they chose to go hiking.
If Enrique wanted, with the details revealed in each of these stories, to reinforce the suspicions that the journalists had obtained illegal access to his private conversations and plans, the lawyer Green cornered the prince with his constant demand for concrete evidence. The prince obtained his first mobile phone in 1998, the lawyer pointed out, while the first of the stories he has presented as evidence of espionage had occurred in 1996. Other newspaper articles contributed by the Duke of Sussex’s legal team were limited to replicate stories that the competition —especially the Daily Mirror— I had already counted days before, Green insisted. But, above all, the lawyer’s main line of argument, who from the beginning of his speech expressed his solidarity to Enrique for “a life constantly subjected to the intrusion of the press”, was very simple: being fed up with the constant harassment of the media and the invasion of your privacy does not prove that illegal methods were used to obtain the information.
“How is it possible that someone knew that I was in that pub Specifically, on that specific date and time, to be able to take photos of me?” Enrique asked himself in his written statement about the episode in the Chelsea neighborhood of London, where the prince had celebrated his 16th birthday with friends.
“Was this information obtained with the hack of the mobile?”, asked the lawyer Green.
“You’ll have to ask the journalist that question,” the prince answered defiantly.
“So, isn’t that your accusation?” the lawyer replied quickly.
-“Yes it is”.
“On what basis?”
“I don’t think my job as a witness is to build the article or determine what information was obtained illegally and what was not. That is the work of journalists”, replied a cornered prince.
In his scorched-earth challenge against the British institutions, Enrique has even decided to attack the current Government: “At the national level, at the moment, our country is being judged globally by the state of its press and its Government: and I believe that both have hit rock bottom”, the prince wrote in the statement delivered to the judge.
The trial against the owners of the Daily Mirror —the first in a series of three lawsuits by the Duke of Sussex against the British tabloid press— may set an important precedent when calculating the amount of compensation demanded from tabloids for years of malpractice. But it can have the opposite effect, in the event that Henry of England is unable to concretize with evidence in court the grudges accumulated by him for years.
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