The Duke of Sussex is suing The Sun’s publisher for allegedly using illegal techniques to obtain information on him.
A judge determined on Thursday that aspects of Prince Harry’s petition can move to trial in the High Court next year.
While his charges of illegal tactics will be heard in court, a judge dismissed his phone-hacking allegations.
Harry’s charges have been refuted by News Group Newspapers (NGN).
Prince Harry claims that journalists and private investigators for The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World used illegal tactics to collect information about him.
The newest round of the royal’s feud with the UK tabloid press focused on when Harry learned enough about the alleged methods used against him to sue.
Claimants have six years after a privacy breach to file a lawsuit under the statute.
NGN’s lawyers contended that he waited too long to file the claim, and that it should thus be dismissed.
However, the court previously heard Harry claim that there was a “secret agreement” between Buckingham Palace and NGN that stopped him from filing suit sooner.
In March 2023, Harry revealed for the first time a rumored agreement between royal aides and senior NGN officials under which any privacy actions against the firm would be postponed and eventually settled out of court.
He used this context to explain why he hadn’t filed his claim years before.
NGN’s lawyers have previously denied the existence of any secret pact, calling it “Alice in Wonderland stuff.”
Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that Harry’s modified case, which was based on the existence of the “secret agreement,” did not “reach the necessary threshold of plausibility and cogency.”
He claimed that emails between the Palace and NGN indicated that there was “at some point an understanding” that the Royal Family’s allegations would be “addressed informally” at a later date, but that the “vague and limited” information presented by Harry’s attorneys did not amount to proof of Harry’s particular claims.
The judge found that after learning of the practice at the News of the World in 2012, Harry was “on notice” that he could have been hacked.
The judge stated that Harry “could easily” have had his lawyers do additional investigations, at which point a “much fuller picture would have emerged.” As a result, the judge ruled that the phone-hacking claim was too late.
A spokesperson for NGN called the ruling a “significant victory” for the company.
They said: “The judge, Mr Justice Fancourt, found his claims in relation to the alleged ‘secret agreement’ were not plausible or credible.
“It is quite clear there was never any such agreement and it is only the Duke who has ever asserted there was.”
However, the judge determined that a trial should take place over other alleged tactics used to obtain information about Harry, which were defined in the ruling as “blagging of confidential information from third parties, and instructing private investigators to do these or other unlawful acts.”
The judge stated that Harry had a “realistically arguable” case that he did not know enough about any usage of the technologies in September 2013, when NGN claims his six-year window to make a claim began.
Harry says he did not have enough information to bring a claim until 2018.
Thursday’s ruling does not take a position on whether Harry waited too long to bring a valid claim, only that “it is not sufficiently clear at this stage that it was issued too late” and should be decided at trial.
The trial, which is scheduled to begin in January 2024 but might last until 2025, could include “many other” claimants, including actor Hugh Grant.
Harry’s legal lawsuit against the Sun is one of three major allegations he is making against British tabloid publishers.
He testified in court for the first time last month as part of his claim against the Mirror Group, and he is also attempting to sue the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday for claimed privacy violations.