Prince Harry fails to attend first day of court in his phone hacking trial, frustrating judge

A judge in the United Kingdom has expressed frustration at Prince Harry for failing to show up to court as expected for his phone hacking case.

The Duke of Sussex, 38, is among multiple claimants suing Mirror Group Newspapers in Britain’s High Court. He accuses journalists from tabloid newspapers The Daily Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and The Sunday People of using illegal methods, including phone hacking, to obtain stories on him between 1996 and 2011.

There are more than 100 claimants in total, including singer Cheryl Cole, former footballer Ian Wright, actor Ricky Tomlinson and the estate of George Michael, though Harry is one of only four who will have their specific, “representative” claims heard in court.

The other three are Michael Turner and Nikki Sanderson, both actors, and Fiona Wightman, who is the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.

Harry is expected to give evidence on Tuesday, local time, and will be the most senior member of the royal family to be cross-examined in court since the 1890s.

Justice Timothy Fancourt, who is presiding over the case, said he was “a little surprised” not to find Harry in court for the beginning of proceedings on Monday.

Harry’s lawyer, David Sherborne, said he had attended the birthday party of his daughter Lilibet in the United States on Sunday, and so had flown to London overnight. Mr Sherborne argued Harry’s peculiar travel and security arrangements “obviously” put him in a “different category” to other witnesses, and he would be in court to give evidence as planned Tuesday.

The lawyer representing Mirror Group Newspapers, Andrew Green, said Harry’s absence was “extraordinary” and he risked wasting the court’s time.

Mr Green stressed that he had “quite a lot to get through” in his cross-examination of Harry and would require more than one full day.

“I have to cross-examine him on 33 articles,” said Mr Green, whose case will involve arguing that many of the articles cited by Harry were not actually sourced illegally.

“And that cannot be done in one day if I am to put to him even a small number of the public domain documents, and in many cases explain the sources of the information.”

According to journalists in the room, Justice Fancourt appeared to be frustrated by Harry’s absence, and expressed concern that he would not be ready to provide evidence on Monday if opening statements were to finish ahead of schedule.

More to come.

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