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By Tom Symonds
Home Affairs correspondent

Lawyers for the Duke of Sussex have demanded the Daily Mail’s publisher voluntarily hand over its records of payments to private investigators.

They cannot currently be used in the duke’s claim against Associated Newspapers because they were given confidentially to the Leveson Inquiry.

The prince and six others are suing the publisher for breaches of privacy.

Associated Newspapers has refused to hand over the records, saying the seven were acting “tactically and cynically”.

A judge ruled earlier this month that the records should remain confidential, but agreed the privacy case should continue.

The seven claimants are Prince Harry, Sir Elton John, his husband David Furnish, Baroness Lawrence, the actor Sadie Frost, the former model Elizabeth Hurley and Sir Simon Hughes, a former Liberal Democrat MP.

The confidential records detail hundreds of payments signed off by journalists at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday to private investigators, some of whom, it is alleged, were linked to unlawful information gathering.

In 2011 they were disclosed confidentially to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, which was examining alleged malpractice by the press.

A restriction order made by the inquiry prevents them being made public.

However, they were leaked to journalists who wrote stories about the payments, and then passed to the legal advisers for the seven claimants.

The judge made clear that he did not find that there had been any breach of undertakings given to the Leveson Inquiry by any of those involved in the claim against Associated Newspapers.

Anticipating that Associated Newspapers will refuse to disclose the payment records, crucial to the case, the seven claimants plan to ask a minister to remove the restriction, on the basis that the Leveson Inquiry was called by the government.

They allege more than 70 journalists wrote stories based on information illicitly obtained by private investigators during the 1990s and 2000s.

They claim the investigators bugged cars and phones, illegally accessed mobile phone voicemails, paid police officials, and obtained private medical and financial records.

Associated Newspapers has strongly rejected the claims. It succeeded in persuading the judge in the High Court civil proceedings to prevent the seven being able to use the payment records.

In a court document disclosed on Monday, Associated said the “claimants should not be permitted to exploit their illegitimate use of information drawn from the Ledgers.”

The publisher has agreed to wait to see if a minister agrees to lift the Leveson restriction order.

However, in a court hearing on Monday, Mr Justice Nicklin, overseeing the case, said his “assumed factual scenario” was that the government will refuse.

Doreen Lawrence, who was at the High Court on Tuesday, is one of the seven claimants

Associated Newspapers said that without being able to rely on the payment records, its opponents would have to “strike out” many of the claims they are making.

Mr Justice Nicklin rejected an attempt by Associated to stop the case on the basis that the claimants had run out of time to take legal action, given that the allegations go back decades.

The court case is set to continue throughout 2024.

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10 November