UK broadcaster Sky News has devised a novel approach to overcoming the reporting restrictions on Prince Harry’s appearance at the high court – employing an actor to recreate his words in the phone hacking case.
The 38-year-old became the first senior royal to enter the witness box for more than 130 years on Tuesday as he gave evidence in an eagerly-anticipated appearance in London.
Recording and filming have only very recently been allowed in British courts, and remain largely banned beyond the sentencing of serious criminals.
It means coverage of court 15 of the Rolls Building relies on whichever media secured a seat on the press bench, including the wire services transmitting copy to newsrooms across the world.
But Sky News was thinking outside the box, employing a red-headed thespian with a passably plummy accent to bring the printed word to life.
In the phone hacking case, Prince Harry told the court that every single article played a destructive role in his life.
There are no cameras in court so as part of a special programme Sky News has recorded what was said by the Duke, played by an actor.
Watch ☟ pic.twitter.com/fxUx0ngOt5
— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 6, 2023
The duke is suing Mirror Group Newspapers for damages, claiming journalists at its titles – which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People – were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.
A promotional clip features actor Laurence Dobiesz repeating the Duke of Sussex’s claims made in court.
He said: “I believe, as a child, every single one of these articles played an important role, a destructive role in my growing up.
“To give any confirmation that I can specifically remember reading the articles at the time, I believe would be speculation.”
The recreation forms part of the Sky News production Harry in Court, presented by Jonathan Samuels, where the actor voices significant moments from the prince’s time in the witness box.
It’s not the first time the broadcaster has used an actor to make the best of Britain’s court reporting laws. The device was used to cover Michael Jackson’s criminal trial on charges of child molestation in 2005. The Hutton inquiry into the Iraq war two years earlier was given a similar treatment.
Jonathan Levy, Sky News executive editor and managing director, said: “This trial and Prince Harry’s fight against the tabloid press has captured the world’s attention. With no cameras in the court, Sky News will offer viewers an accurate and fair reconstruction of what is said and a better understanding of how the case unfolds.”
On Twitter, the reaction was … mixed.
Sky News deciding to "reconstruct" all of Prince Harry's evidence, by having a red-haired actor reading the transcript from an autocue is one of the strangest things I have ever seen. ~AA pic.twitter.com/btZNai0pNi
— Best for Britain (@BestForBritain) June 6, 2023
Prince Harry said that the British Press are rather unserious and they have responded with…this https://t.co/J0vItHtxHE
— Michaela Makusha (@MakushaMichaela) June 6, 2023
The world needs to send the UK a wellness check. They are not OK. https://t.co/lRerLricVN
— R.S. Locke / Royal Suitor (@royal_suitor) June 6, 2023
This is (a) insane and (b) insulting. Why? https://t.co/tfMdAumyZz
— Prof Paul Bernal (@PaulbernalUK) June 6, 2023
Hahaha, I wondered why ‘David Platt’ from Coronation Street was trending.
— Gavin Winters (@GavinWinters) June 6, 2023