Hugh Grant deal may force Harry to settle Sun suit

Harry's lawyer says the prince may be forced to settle his claim against The Sun's publisher.

Harry's lawyer says the prince may be forced to settle his claim against The Sun's publisher. Photo: AAP

Prince Harry may have to drop his phone-hacking case against Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid The Sun after actor Hugh Grant settled his own long-running lawsuit against the company.

Grant, with Harry and others, was suing News Group Newspapers for alleged widespread unlawful information gathering, including landline tapping, burglary and “blagging” confidential information about him.

Grant’s case was one of several eligible to go to trial at London’s High Court in January.

But the actor announced late on Wednesday (Australian time) that he had reluctantly settled with NGN because he could be left with a multimillion-pound legal bill if he rejected its pretrial offer, even if he later won the lawsuit.

“News Group are claiming they are entirely innocent of the things I had accused the Sun of doing,” Grant posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday.

“As is common with entirely innocent people, they are offering me an enormous sum of money to keep this matter out of court.”

The Love Actually star said Murdoch’s lawyers were “very expensive”.

“I would love to see all the allegations that they deny tested in court,” he wrote.

“But the rules around civil litigation mean that if I proceed to trial and the court awards me damages that are even a penny less than the settlement offer, I would have to pay the legal costs of both sides.

“Even if every allegation is proven in court, I would still be liable for something approaching £10 million ($19 million) in costs. I’m afraid I am shying at that fence.”

Grant said the money had a “stink” about it, and he would donate it to media reform campaigner Hacked Off to be used in “the general campaign to expose the worst excesses of our oligarch-owned press”.

Later in the day, David Sherborne, the lawyer for both Grant and Prince Harry, told a hearing at the High Court in London that the prince and other claimants also face similar predicaments and might have settlements “forced” upon them.

“The Duke of Sussex is subject to the same issues that [actor] Sienna Miller and Hugh Grant have been subject to, which is that offers are made [that] make it impossible for them to go ahead,” Sherborne said.

NGN said the settlement with Grant was “in both parties’ financial interests not to progress to a costly trial”.

“NGN is drawing a line under disputed matters, some of which date back more than 20 years ago. In some cases, it has made commercial sense for both parties to come to a settlement agreement before trial to bring a resolution to the matter,” it said.

“There are a number of disputed claims still going through the civil courts some of which seek to involve The Sun. The Sun does not accept liability or make any admissions to the allegations.”

Miller settled a lawsuit against NGN in 2021, which her lawyers said at the time was because of the risk of having to pay millions of pounds in legal fees even if she won.

Grant has become a prominent campaigner on press reform since the phone-hacking scandal emerged more than a decade ago, and had joined forces with Harry in recent years.

He had accused Sun journalists of using private investigators to tap his phone and burgle his house.

Grant’s settlement does reduce the chances of NGN facing a trial at all over claims of unlawful information-gathering, although, as Sherborne said, Harry’s lawsuit continues.

NGN says the claimants are using the lawsuits to attack the tabloid press and that allegations against current and former staff are “a scurrilous and cynical attack on their integrity”.

-with AAP

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