The Daily Mirror is facing a claim for almost £2m in legal costs after Prince Harry won substantial damages in his phone-hacking case against the publisher. Mr Justice Fancourt ruled at the high court last month that “extensive” phone hacking took place at Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) from 2006 to 2011, “even to some extent” during the Leveson inquiry into media standards. The judge also found “widespread” unlawful information gathering at all three MGN titles and that the use of private investigators was an “integral part of the system”. Fancourt awarded Harry £140,600 in damages after finding that 15 out of 33 articles examined at trial relating to him were the product of phone hacking or unlawful information gathering. Harry was one of four “representative” claimants whose cases were heard after a “generic” case on behalf of a much larger group of claimants. After Harry’s success, all those who were involved in the generic claim want to recover the costs they have incurred. David Sherborne, representing the group, said in written arguments that the total amount sought – not including Harry’s costs, which will be determined at a later date – were £2.15m, but that “to avoid unnecessary argument” they wanted 90% of that amount (£1.94m) to be paid on account. “The claimants were the overwhelming victors on each of the key generic issues examined by the judge,” said Sherborne. “These findings have clearly justified the bringing of the generic case and provided important vindication to the claimants as well as crucial judicial findings and the important uncovering of the truth that had been concealed and lied about by MGN. “In the circumstances, the only just outcome is for them to be paid the costs of that exercise.” As the court heard evidence relating to only 33 out of 148 articles about Harry, his claim is unfinished, and he will seek his legal fees when they have been heard. This being the case, the costs for his individual case, which are likely be substantial, are not included in the current claim. Sherborne said: “Although the duke is certainly prepared to attempt to resolve the remainder of his claim through agreement, it is necessary to list the remainder of his claim as soon as is practicable.” Roger Mallalieu KC, for MGN, told the court that the publisher made offers to settle with Harry but the terms of the offers were confidential. MGN is disputing the costs sought by the claimants. Mallalieu said in written arguments that it proposed paying 35% of the successful claimants’ common costs, reflecting the fact that they had only “partial success on the trial issues”. He also said the other three “representative” claimants – the Coronation Street actors Michael Turner and Nikki Sanderson, and Fiona Wightman, the former wife of the comedian Paul Whitehouse – should be required to make a contribution to MGN’s costs. Turner was awarded £31,650 in damages, but Sanderson and Wightman had their claims dismissed because they were made too late, although they are seeking leave to appeal against that decision. Mallalieu said all “three fall into the unsuccessful claimant camp for the whole or a substantial majority of their claims”, in Turner’s case because he rejected a pre-action offer greater than the amount he was awarded at trial. Judgment will be delivered at a later date.
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