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Prince Harry was accused of wasting court time Monday after he failed to turn up at London’s High Court, as ordered by the judge, because he was celebrating his daughter Princess Lilibet’s birthday in California on Sunday.

His lawyer David Sherborne kicked off proceedings by saying that Harry would not be available to the obvious frustration of the judge.

Sherborne told the court: “The Duke of Sussex is attending tomorrow to give evidence. He flew yesterday evening from Los Angeles. He was attending his daughter’s birthday yesterday and he arrives…”

The judge interrupted, saying: “I’m a little surprised that the first witness is not going to be available today?”

Sherborne replied that Harry was in a “different category” to his co-claimants owing to travel and security arrangements, and claimed his presence on court was not important because, “It was never anticipated that the openings would not take the whole day.”

However the BBC reported that the judge rebuked Sherborne, replying: “It was anticipated that they might—which is why I directed that the first witness [Harry] should be available.”

A lawyer for the Mirror Group Newspapers, who deny Harry and his co-claimants’ allegations that phones were hacked to get stories for newspapers including the Mirror, said Prince Harry’s side were “wasting time” by not having him available to give evidence today.

Andrew Green said it was “absolutely extraordinary… that he is not available for day one of his own trial.”

Green added, “I have to cross-examine [Prince Harry] on 33 articles and that cannot be done in one day… I need one and a half days. That is not unreasonable.”

The judge appeared to side with Green, saying: “I am not going to restrict you to a day,” suggesting that court hours could be extended Tuesday and Wednesday, if necessary.

Harry is one of a large group of claimants who allege that the Mirror Group used information gathered illegally to publish a string of stories about them.

Sherborne said in his opening statement that it was “obvious” that stories about Harry’s private life drove newspaper sales.

He said Harry was “one of the most written about individuals in this period,” and said he was hacked on “multiple occasions.”

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