Prince Harry ‘deliberately destroyed’ potential evidence, phone hacking case finds

Prince Harry deliberately destroyed potential evidence in his High Court phone hacking claim against the publisher of The Sun, it is claimed, as a judge ordered him to answer the charges.

The Duke of Sussex must personally reveal why and how drafts of his memoir, Spare, and the messages he exchanged with his ghostwriter were destroyed “long after” he sued News Group Newspapers (NGN) in 2019.

Judge Fancourt said it was “troubling” that the documents and conversations, which were likely to contain references to unlawful information gathering, had been deleted while the case was well underway.

He said efforts should be made to retrieve the messages sent between the duke and JR Moehringer, the author.

The judge also ordered the Duke’s legal team to write to Sir Clive Alderton, the King’s private secretary, and Sir Michael Stevens, his treasurer and custodian of the Privy Purse, requesting all records of communications with the Duke.

It came after Anthony Hudson KC, on behalf of NGN, suggested the Duke had “deliberately destroyed” potential evidence.

‘Old hand at revealing’

The Duke and more than 40 others have sued NGN for alleged unlawful information gathering and invasion of privacy. A trial is scheduled for January 2025.

The publisher requested disclosure of emails, text messages and WhatsApp messages sent and received by the Duke, as well as material on two encrypted hard drives.

The judge said the lack of documentation provided so far by the Duke’s legal team was “quite remarkable” and gave him “reason for concern”.

He told the court: ‘I have also seen disturbing evidence that a large number of potentially relevant documents and confidential messages between the Duke and Spare’s ghost writer were destroyed sometime between 2021 and 2023, long after this claim was made.

“The position is not transparently clear about what happened and needs to be made clear through witness testimony from the claimant himself – what happened to the messages between himself and his ghostwriter and whether any attempts were made to retrieve them.”

He added: “It seems to me inherently likely that things have been said relating to the parts of Spare where unlawful information gathering is discussed.”

‘Texting around the clock’

The judge also expressed disbelief that the majority of the document searches conducted in connection with the case – into possible evidence of prior knowledge of the unlawful gathering of information – had been “handled by the Duke himself in California”.

In his own witness statement, the Duke’s lawyer Roddy Chisholm Batten claimed he was “an old hand at dealing with disclosure” following his hacking claim against Mirror Group Newspapers.

However, the judge said it was “not appropriate in a case of this nature” for such searches to be carried out by the claimant himself.

“Sometimes I get the impression that even the plaintiff’s lawyers don’t seem to grapple with the knowledge issue… so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the plaintiff himself doesn’t quite understand it,” he told the court.

The judge also revealed that the royal family had given “a large group of documents” to the duke in 2020 – a development of which his own legal team was “completely unaware” until this month.

In May 2008, Moehringer wrote about the process of writing the Duke’s biography for the New Yorker magazine.

“When we weren’t Zooming or calling, we were texting around the clock,” he revealed.

“At the time, no topic was off the table. I felt honored by his candor and I could see that he was surprised by it. And energized.”

David Sherborne

David Sherborne described NGN’s disclosure application as a ‘fishing expedition’ – Jeff Gilbert

David Sherborne, for the Duke, told the court the pair had communicated via Signal but their chat history was deleted before the book was published in January 2023.

“I don’t know if your Lordship has ever used Signal, but you can uninstall it completely. That’s the advantage of Signal, it’s more secure than WhatsApp,” he said.

“This was a very necessary process, not to hide anything, but to remove very sensitive information about [the Duke] and the royal family, which, if leaked, would not only endanger its security but also be potentially damaging to the [Duke] and his family.”

Mr Sherborne said the three Hotmail addresses the Duke used before 2014;; and were no longer accessible.

However, his team searched other email accounts that the Duke does have access to; namely and, covering a period from January 2014 to April 2024. The original three-keyword search was expanded to 55 search terms, as requested by NGN.

According to court documents, he conducted “extensive” searches for data storage devices, including a physical search of his home in California.

He has also contacted Lord Christopher Geidt, Elizabeth II’s former private secretary, Sally Osman, the former director of royal communications, Sir David Manning, the former British ambassador to the US, and Nick Loughran, the duke’s former deputy communications secretary, who said they did not contain anything relevant from the period.

Mr Hudson accused the Duke of “obfuscation” and said if he wanted access to documents from his former lawyers or from the royal household, he would get them.

He accused the duke of “creating an obstacle course” to prevent the publisher from obtaining possible evidence and said his legal team had been dragged “kicking and screaming” to sift through a cache of 36,000 potentially relevant emails.

In response, Mr Sherborne said it had taken 130 hours to sift through 35,000 emails and only “a handful” were relevant. He described it as a “completely disproportionate exercise”.

The lawyer said the duke had nothing to hide and accused NGN of “being in the realm of total speculation.” He said claims that possible evidence was hidden were “just nonsense”.

The Duke was ordered to pay an interim compensation of £60,000.

Leave a Comment