Prince Harry has prevailed in his lawsuit against Associated Newspapers Limited.
A High Court judge has ruled that some of an article from The Mail on Sunday regarding the Duke’s legal claim against the Home Office was “defamatory.”
The newspaper published an article in February with the heading, “Exclusive: How Prince Harry fought the government in court over police bodyguards while attempting to keep the case under wraps… Then, only a few minutes after the news first broke, his public relations team attempted to downplay the conflict.”
In his decision on Friday, Mr. Justice Nicklin determined that some passages in the alleged article were defamatory. Although it was implied by the headline if read alone, he claimed that the article did not suggest that Harry “was seeking to keep his ‘legal battle’ with the Government secret.”
In response to a reader’s interpretation of one of the article’s meanings, Mr. Justice Nicklin said Harry “was responsible for public statements, issued on his behalf, which claimed that he was willing to pay for police protection in the UK, and that his legal challenge was to the Government’s refusal to permit him to do so, whereas the true position, as revealed in documents filed in the legal proceedings, was that he had only made the offer to pay after the proceedings had compelled him to do so.”
The senior judge added that given that Harry now held a public position in combating “misinformation,” it was ironic that the article would have been interpreted as alleging that Harry “was responsible for trying to mislead and confuse the public as to the true position.”
Justice Nicklin continued: “The allegation in the article was very much that the goal was to mislead the public, even though it may be possible to “spin” facts in a way that does not deceive. That provides the element that is required for the meanings to be deemed defamatory under common law.”
According to Mr. Justice Nicklin, Friday’s decision only addresses the “objective meaning” of the article and serves as the initial step in the libel case. This means that a full trial can now be held in the case.
Harry claimed that it had caused him “substantial hurt, embarrassment, and distress, which is continuing” in a written statement to the preliminary hearing last month.