Parts of an article in The Mail on Sunday about the Duke of Sussex’s legal claim against the Home Office were defamatory, a High Court judge has ruled.
Prince Harry made one Legal claim against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) after the newspaper published a story following a hearing in the Duke’s separate High Court action over his safety precautions while in the UK.
The article was published in February with the headline: “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal battle with the government over police bodyguards under wraps…then – just minutes after the story broke – his PR machine attempted a to achieve positive result refer to the dispute.”
At a hearing in June, Judge Nicklin was asked to determine the “natural and ordinary” meaning of parts of the article in the lawsuit and whether they were defamatory.
He has now determined that parts of the article were in fact defamatory and concluded that they gave the reader the impression that Prince Harry was deliberately trying to mislead the public.
In discussing one of the article’s meanings, Justice Nicklin said a reader would think Harry was “responsible for public statements made on his behalf alleging he was willing to pay for police protection in the UK and that his legal challenge was the government’s refusal to allow him to do so, while the true position, as evidenced by documents filed at the trial, was that he had made the offer of payment only after the trial had begun”.
He also said the article was read as Harry was “responsible for attempting to mislead and confuse the public as to the true position, which was ironic given that he now had a public role in combating.” ‘misinformation’”.
Mr Justice Nicklin added: “It may be possible to ‘twist’ facts in a way that does not mislead, but the assertion in the article was very strong that the aim was to mislead the public.”
He concluded: “This provides the element necessary to render the common-law meanings defamatory.”
Before the ruling, lawyers for Harry had argued the article was defamatory, saying Harry “lied”, “improperly and cynically” attempted to manipulate public opinion and “attempted to keep his legal battle with the government a secret from the public.” “.
Speaking for Harry, Justin Rushbrooke QC had said: “Allegations that a person has lied to the public, manipulated the public and attempted to keep a secret that should be public are serious allegations which in the eyes of right thought tend to demean him Persons.”
On the other hand, ANL’s lawyers had argued that the article had not alleged that Prince Harry’s PR team “added an overly favorable glamor to the plaintiff” or “accused you of dishonesty”.
This ruling is only the first stage in the Duke of Sussex’s defamation lawsuit against ANL and the publisher will now be filing its defense in the case.
In addition to The Mail on Sunday, ANL also publishes the Daily Mail and Mail Online.
Mr Justice Nicklin said in his ruling: “The decision made in this judgment concerns solely the objective meaning of the article published by the defendant for the purpose of the plaintiff’s defamation action.
“This is pretty much the first phase of a defamation lawsuit.
“The next step will be for the defendant to file a defense against the claim.
“Whether the lawsuit is successful or not, and if so, on what basis, will have to be decided later in the process.”
Prince Harry and Megan Markle have taken legal action against UK media in the past, filing five lawsuits in the last three years, including two against the BBC.
Meghan before Won £1million in damages following a three-year legal battle against ANL for printing a “personal and private” letter she sent to her father three months after their marriage.
Prince Harry, who lives in Montecito, California with Meghan and their two children Archie and Lilibet, was back in the UK last month to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
The family celebrated her daughter’s first birthday having a party at her former Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, although the Queen is said not to have attended.