LONDON — A London court on Friday rejected an attempt by the publisher of The Sun tabloid to throw out a lawsuit by actor Hugh Grant alleging that journalists and investigators it hired illegally snooped on him.
Justice Timothy Fancourt said a trial in January will have to determine whether The Sun had carried out unlawful information gathering that included tapping his landline and bugging his car and breaking into his home.
News Group Newspapers, which owns The Sun, had argued that Grant didn’t bring his claims within a six-year time limit. The judge dismissed Grant’s phone hacking claims on time limitation grounds, but said the case could proceed on the other allegations.
“It was only on seeing invoices disclosed … in 2021 that Mr. Grant believed that private investigators (PIs) had been instructed by The Sun to target him in various ways, particularly in 2011,” Fancourt wrote.
The case was argued during a hearing last month that also included phone hacking allegations by Prince Harry against News Group, Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers.
Fancourt’s ruling didn’t address the Duke of Sussex’s case because he wants to hear more about Harry’s allegations that he was prevented from bringing his claims much sooner because of a “secret agreement” between Buckingham Palace and Murdoch’s papers.
Harry alleged that the royal family had agreed to settle their cases with NGN, publisher of the defunct News of the World, out of court after related litigation died down. He said the deal called for an apology from the newspapers.
In court papers, Harry said that he only brought his lawsuit when efforts to expedite that settlement failed. He said his brother, Prince William, heir to the throne, subsequently received a “huge” settlement over phone hacking allegations against News Group.
NGN has denied there was a “secret agreement.” The palace hasn’t responded to messages seeking comment on that or William’s alleged settlement.
A spokesperson for News Group issued a statement Friday saying that it was pleased that the court threw out Grant’s phone hacking allegations.
“NGN strongly denies the various historical allegations of unlawful information-gathering contained in what remains of Mr. Grant’s claim,” the statement said.
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