Prince Harry has accepted “substantial damages” and an apology from Splash News and Picture Agency in the High Court after the media outlet used a helicopter to take photos of the Cotswolds home he shared with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

The couple were forced to leave their home after the photos were published in newspapers including The Times.

Splash chartered a helicopter in January to take images of the couple’s private home. which Buckingham Palace said put the pair’s safety at risk.

Prince Harry took legal action over a claim for misuse of private information that breached his privacy. The court heard that Splash had agreed to pay a substantial sum, which has not been disclosed, in damages and legal costs, and had apologised.

The prince applied for permission to have a statement announcing the terms of the out-of-court settlement read in court, laying down a firm marker in his fight to protect the privacy of his family.

The News and Picture Agency sells news, photos and videos across the world, including paparazzi images of celebrities.

It boasts of taking more than 150,000 photos a day across the globe.

Bedroom

Prince Harry’s lawyers told a High Court hearing the pictures taken by Splash included one of the inside of a bedroom at the privately-rented Oxfordshire property.

The court heard the pictures had “seriously undermined” Harry’s safety.

The photos were of living and dining areas, and included a shot taken “directly into the bedroom”.

When the photos were published in mid-January, the couple’s official residence was Kensington Palace.

But a spokeswoman for the Sussex’s said they had spent a lot of time at their country retreat in the Cotswolds, which had been privately rented by Harry.

The duke and duchess then moved from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, in April – shortly before Meghan gave birth to their son Archie.

Splash said it had made an “error of judgement” which would not be repeated.

Apology

In a statement, Splash added: “We apologise to the Duke and Duchess (of Sussex) for the distress we have caused.”

Buckingham Palace said the duke “acknowledges and welcomes the formal apology” from Splash.

The duke’s lawyers told Mr Justice Warby that Harry and his wife Meghan had chosen to make the Oxfordshire property their home because of its “high level of privacy”.

But Gerrard Tyrrell, who read a statement in court on the duke’s behalf, said the couple had subsequently felt unable to live there.

In its code of conduct, Splash says it is “committed to the fair and ethical treatment of our subjects, our contributors and our customers”.

Statement

The statement read out in court said: “On 9 January 2019, Splash chartered a helicopter for the purpose of taking photographs and recording video footage of the duke’s private home in Oxfordshire .

The property had been chosen by the duke himself and his wife given the high level of privacy it afforded, given its position in a secluded area surrounded by private farmland away from any areas to which photographers have access.

‘The helicopter flew over the home at a low altitude allowing Splash to take photographs of and into the living area and dining area of the home and directly into the bedroom. The photographs were taken for commercial gain and syndicated for that purpose.

As a result, the photographs were published by the Times newspaper and elsewhere online by several other media outlets. No consent was given to the action taken by Splash. The duke had to engage his solicitors to take steps to try and secure the removal of the photographs from these websites.

“The syndication and publication of the photographs very seriously undermined the safety and security of the duke and the home to the extent that they are no longer able to live at the property.”

Harry is the latest member of the royal family to turn to the courts for redress over privacy and other issues. In 2017 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were awarded €100,000 (£91,000) in damages and interest against the French celebrity magazine Closer and two photographers.