The High Court said there was ‘a lack of credibility’ about the duke’s claims and Mr Justice Fancourt dismissed as improbable Harry’s story that Buckingham Palace had struck a secret deal behind his back, Although the judge dismissed charges he is allowing further charges to go to trial.
He said the Duke of Sussex had signed two ‘statements of truth’ that were ‘inconsistent’ with his evidence.
His excoriating 40-page judgment is believed to be the first time the evidence of a senior royal has been tested in this way.
Beneath the crest of Harry’s father the King at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Fancourt ruled that the duke’s case had ‘not reached the necessary threshold of plausibility and cogency’.
The duke, 38, is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World, alleging phone hacking and other unlawful activities were used to write stories about him.
Yesterday, the phone-hacking elements of the case were thrown out after the publisher successfully argued Harry had left it too late to bring his case.
By law, claimants must launch a case within six years, and the judge said there was ‘no doubt’ the duke had known as long ago as 2012 that he had been hacked by the News of the World.
NGN hailed the ruling as ‘a significant victory’.
A spokeswoman for NGN said: “The High Court has today, in a significant victory for News Group Newspapers dismissed the Duke of Sussex’s phone hacking claims against both the News of the World and The Sun.
Then he said he would have brought it earlier but for a backroom ‘secret agreement’ between Buckingham Palace and newspaper executives, which meant he had been blocked by royal courtiers in 2012 from launching a claim.
This prompted the judge to question how Harry could simultaneously claim he did not know, while also insisting he had been blocked.
NGN’s barrister, Anthony Hudson KC, claimed Harry was trying to ride two horses going in opposite directions and described his belated explanation as ‘Alice in Wonderland stuff’.
Harry’s own stated case, which was ‘twice supported by statements of truth’, was ‘inconsistent’ with his evidence to the court, the judge found.
There was a ‘lack of credibility’ in the duke’s claims and an ‘improbability of a secret agreement being made’. The judge said it was ‘surprising’ that Harry had not remembered the supposed secret deal when he was putting together his case.
And he said Harry could ‘easily’ have found out he had a worthwhile case years ago had he exercised ‘reasonable diligence’.