A High Court judge has ruled that parts of an article in The Mail on Sunday about the Duke of Sussex’s claim against the Home Office are defamatory.

Prince Harry has filed legal action against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) after the newspaper published an article following a hearing in the Duke’s separate High Court action over his security measures while in the UK.

The piece was published in February under the headline: “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep secret his legal battle with the government over police bodyguards … then – minutes after the story broke – his PR machine tried to put positivity to stir up controversy.’

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Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend anniversary service of thanksgiving

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 discovered that parts of the article were indeed defamatory, finding that they gave the reader the impression that Prince Harry was deliberately trying to mislead the public.

Discussing one of the implications of the article, Judge Nicklin said the reader would think that Harry was “responsible for the public statements made on his behalf that he was willing to pay for police protection in the UK and that his challenge was to the government’s refusal to allow him to do so, whereas the true position, as revealed in the documents produced at trial, was that he only made the offer to pay after the trial had commenced.’

He also said the article would have been read as saying Harry was “responsible for trying to mislead and confuse the public about his true position, which was ironic given that he now takes a public role in fighting ‘misinformation’.”

Mr Justice Nicklin added: “It may be possible to ‘spin’ the facts in a way that is not misleading, but the allegation in the article was that the intention was to mislead the public.”

He concluded: “This provides the necessary element to make a meaning defamatory at common law.”

Ahead of the ruling, Harry’s lawyers argued that the article was defamatory and meant Harry “lied”, “improperly and cynically” tried to manipulate public opinion and “tried to keep his legal battle with the government a secret from the public”.

Justin Rushbrook, QC for Harry, said: “Allegations that a man lied to the public, manipulated the public and tried to keep a secret that should be public are serious and demean him in the eyes of reasonable people. people”.

ANL lawyers argued that the article did not allege that Prince Harry’s PR team had “added a gloss unduly favorable to the plaintiff” or “alleged dishonesty against them”.

The Meghan Harriman family spent time with the Sussexes over the weekend.  Photo by Mison Harriman
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The Sussexes and their children were in the UK in June. Photo by Mison Harriman

The decision is just the first stage of the Duke of Sussex’s defamation claim against ANL, and the publisher must now file its defense in the case.

Mr Justice Nicklin said in his judgment: “The decision reached in this judgment is solely concerned with the objective value of the article published by the defendant for the purposes of the plaintiff’s defamation claim.

“This is the first stage of a defamation lawsuit.

“The next step will be the defendant’s appeal to the lawsuit.

“Later in the proceedings, it will be decided whether or not the claim is upheld and, if so, on what grounds.”

Prince Harry, who lives in Montecito, California with Meghan Markle and their children Archie and Lilibeth, returned to the UK last month to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The family celebrated Lilibeth’s first birthday with a party at their former home in Windsor, Frogmore Cottage.

https://news.sky.com/story/article-in-the-mail-on-sunday-about-prince-harrys-home-office-legal-claim-was-defamatory-high-court-rules-12648056

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