Prince Harry Lawyers Say Tabloid Planned to Exploit Father With Cocaine Claim

Prince Harry claims journalists planned to tell Prince Charles that he was taking cocaine, in a bid to get a softer story about his "alleged drug use," Newsweek can reveal.

The claim forms part of the Harry's lawsuit against the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Group Newspapers, in which the Duke of Sussex is accusing former reporters from the News of the World and The Sun of phone hacking.

Among his privacy claims, the 36-year-old's lawyers have told the High Court in London about emails sent before the News of the World ran a story about Prince Harry going to a drugs rehabilitation clinic after smoking cannabis, in January 2002.

The newspaper's royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, emailed the then-editor Rebekah Brooks (née Wade) and then-deputy editor Andy Coulson days before publication.

A court filing by Harry's lawyers read: "The [Metropolitan Police Service] also disclosed an untitled email from Mr Goodman to Rebekah Wade and Andy Coulson sent at 19:41 on 9 January 2002, which described how they were going to blag Prince Charles into believing that [Prince Harry] was an habitual heavy drinker and user of cocaine and cannabis, in order to get an exclusive but 'softer' story on [Prince Harry's] alleged drug use."

Prince Harry Visits Abbey Road Studios
Prince Harry speaks with members of the Invictus Games Choir at Abbey Road Studios, where a single has been recorded for the Invictus Games Foundation on February 28, 2020 in London, England. He is suing the publisher of the News of the World and The Sun. Hannah McKay - WPA Pool/Getty

The publisher describes the claim as "wholly unsupported by the email, the full content of which will if necessary be relied on at trial."

News Group Newspapers filing reads: "The email referred to does not 'describ[e] how they were going to blag Prince Charles into believing that the claimant was a habitual heavy drinker and user of cocaine and cannabis.'

"The email makes no reference at all to 'blag[ging] Prince Charles', whether for the purpose stated or for any other purpose.

"Further the Claimant has failed to: explain what is meant by the allegation of 'blag[ging]'; plead any basis in support of that allegation; and plead any basis in support of the allegation that the purpose of any 'blag' was to 'get an exclusive but 'softer' story on the Claimant's alleged drug use'."

It added: "It is unclear whether it is alleged that the evidence relating to [Prince Harry] referred to in those paragraphs was untrue and if so in what respect(s)."

Representatives for Harry and Charles would not discuss the ongoing case. Newsweek has also contacted News Group Newspapers. The Sun has always denied phone hacking took place on the paper.

The latest claim adds detail to what is already known about negotiations between the newspaper and the palace over the drugs story.

The report described how "worried Charles chose to 'terrify' Harry away from drugs by sending him to therapy sessions with hard-core heroin addicts."

In a 2003 interview with The Guardian, Mark Boland, a former aide to Prince Charles, said the News of the World's story misrepresented the significance of Prince Harry's visit to rehab.

"Presenting the centre as the great solution to the problem was something that I was embarrassed about," Boland said. "It was misleading of [the News of the World]."

He added: "We had to make a choice. Did we fight to stop these allegations appearing or did we accept that the News of the World was going to print something and make the best of it?"

At the time, a spokesman for St James' Palace, then Charles' official residence, said of the News of The World report: "This is a serious matter which was resolved within the family, and is now in the past and closed."