Former Daily Mirror royal correspondent Jane Kerr has responded to the “extremely upsetting” suggestion from Prince Harry that she was involved in hacking and blagging.
Harry made the allegation in evidence given at the High Court yesterday (6 June) during his legal action against Mirror Group Newspapers alleging unlawful information gathering.
He was quizzed about a 2000 Daily Mirror story headlined “Snap: Harry breaks thumb like William”.
After it was pointed out that the incident was first reported by Press Association, Harry was asked did he still maintain that information in the story resulted from illegal information gathering by then Mirror royal editor Jane Kerr.
He said: “I believe it was, either probably herself or she got someone else to do her dirty work for her.”
In a written statement Kerr said: “I have never engaged in voicemail interception at MGN or elsewhere and I have never engaged the services of private investigators or other third parties to engage in unlawful information gathering activities.”
And in second statement she said: “I would like to reiterate in the strongest terms that I have never engaged in voicemail interception at MGN or elsewhere and I have never instructed private investigators or other third parties to engage in unlawful information gathering activities.
“I worked hard and honestly as a journalist, always believing I was doing the right thing, and I felt proud and privileged to be the Mirror’s royal reporter.
“To be accused of such a thing is extremely upsetting.”
Cocaine parties story was News of the World follow up
In relation to a January 2002 Daily Mirror article headlined “Harry’s cocaine ecstasy and GHB parties”, Kerr said she was following up a News of the World story and would have called St James’s Palace to get confirmation.
“I cannot recall this story well and I do not know the source of the quotes in this article,” she said, adding it is likely to have come from a contact of her crime correspondent colleague who was jointly bylined.
She added: “I am aware that there was a payment to a confidential source in respect of this article but the source was not one of my contacts.”
Kerr said she had “no reason to believe” that practices used by suppliers of information “were unlawful”.
David Sherborne, representing the Duke of Sussex, said she used “a large number of private investigators and other third parties whilst you were at Mirror Group Newspapers”.
In her written statement, Kerr said she had been told of payment records from AJK Research and Commercial and Legal Services (UK) Limited which refer to her name. She said recalled using the services of the directors of Commercial and Legal Services UK “to ask them to look up an address that was listed on the electoral roll”.
Jane Kerr: Payments made to look up names and addresses
Kerr said that when she was on the news desk “in charge of getting reporters out” and there was a “big story breaking” she might have asked them to “look up the names and addresses on the electoral roll”. “My name might appear on the invoices because of this,” Kerr said.
She also said she was familiar with the name of the director of AJK Research, saying he used “to do genealogy/family tree research and he used birth, deaths and marriage registers to do this”.
“I had no reason to believe the practices used by these suppliers were unlawful,” Kerr said.
Kerr said in a witness statement she did not know how a private investigator obtained phone numbers “and never asked how”.
She said she had been informed by MGN’s lawyers there was one payment record which refers to her name from Jonathan Stafford, someone the Duke of Sussex’s legal team have alleged to be a “known blagger” of information.
“I have been told that a partial admission has been made by MGN that a limited proportion of instructions to Stafford were to unlawfully obtain private information,” Kerr said.
She added: “I recall Jonathan Stafford though he was not my contact and I don’t recognise the details on the payment record shown to me.
“He was somebody used by the news desk to get telephone numbers. If you were following a story and weren’t able to door knock or needed a number so that you could approach someone for interview, you might call Jonathan to request that he searches for contact details.
“I don’t know how he got telephone numbers and never asked how. I certainly wouldn’t have told him how to do it. I had no reason to believe that the practices Stafford engaged in were unlawful nor did I instruct him to undertake such practices.”
She told the court that she has “never asked anyone to do anything unlawful”.
She told the court: “These were people who were well known to the news desk, I did not think there was anything wrong with using them…I had no reason to suspect that they would be doing anything other than carrying out normal journalistic activity.”
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