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Mirror publisher told to pay some costs of phone hacking trial

The publisher of the Daily Mirror has been ordered to pay the costs of part of a phone-hacking trial which featured the Duke of Sussex.

In December, a judge ruled that phone hacking became “widespread and habitual” at the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) titles in the late 1990s and was practised “even to some extent” during the Leveson Inquiry into press standards in 2011.

Mr Justice Fancourt also concluded that Harry’s phone was hacked “to a modest extent” by MGN, awarding him £140,600 in damages.

As well as the “representative” claims brought by the duke and three others against the publisher of the Daily and Sunday Mirror and The People, the trial last year also heard “generic” evidence about wider alleged wrongdoing at MGN.

In a ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Fancourt said the publisher should pay so-called “generic” legal costs to the more than 100 people currently involved in the legal action.

The judge said: “On the generic issues, there can be little doubt that the claimants were successful.

“In this unusual case, justice is only done by awarding the claimants their costs of the generic issues,” he added.

The figure of costs is yet to be assessed, but the High Court in London previously heard the group of people who sued the publisher were currently seeking payment of £1,976,660 from MGN towards the legal costs of bringing those allegations to court.

MGN phone hacking trial
Barrister David Sherborne is representing the claimants (James Manning/PA)

Harry’s case was heard alongside similar claims brought by actor Michael Turner, who is known professionally as Michael Le Vell and is most famous for playing Kevin Webster in Coronation Street, actress Nikki Sanderson, and Fiona Wightman, the ex-wife of comedian Paul Whitehouse.

The claims brought by Ms Sanderson and Ms Wightman were dismissed by Mr Justice Fancourt because they were made too late, despite the judge finding that some of their complaints were proved.

In his ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that Ms Sanderson and Ms Wightman should pay MGN the legal costs of defending their individual claims.

The judge also ruled that Mr Turner should pay MGN’s costs of responding to his claim from the date of March 5 2022, where an offer was made.

David Sherborne, for the group, previously said decisions about the costs in Harry’s case against the publisher are reserved until the rest of his claim is determined.

Harry sued MGN for damages, claiming journalists at its publications were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

There are a further 115 articles in his claim after a sample of 33 were examined at the trial last year, which saw Harry enter the witness box, with 15 articles found to have been the product of unlawful information gathering.

An MGN spokesperson said: “We welcomed December’s judgment that gave the business the necessary clarity to move forward from events that took place many years ago.

“Where historical wrongdoing took place, we apologise unreservedly, have taken full responsibility and paid compensation.”