Just two days before Netflix is planning to release a controversial reality series involving the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the High Court braces itself for the latest hearing in the Duke’s libel claim against the publisher of The Mail on Sunday over an article about the duke’s challenge against the Home Office over security arrangements.
The King’s son, Prince Harry, is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over an article about his separate High Court claim regarding security arrangements for himself and his family when they are in the UK.
ANL is contesting the claim.
The story was published in February under the headline: “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight with the government over police bodyguards a secret… then – just minutes after the story broke – his PR machine tried to put a positive spin on the dispute”.
In July, Mr Justice Nicklin ruled in Harry’s favour on the first stage of his libel claim, relating to the “objective meaning” of the article, following a hearing in June.
The judge found the article was defamatory, saying a normal reader would understand from the article that 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 commenced”.
A further hearing in the libel case is due to take place at the High Court on Tuesday and court listings indicate it will deal with costs and case management issues.
Mr Justice Nicklin said in his July ruling: “It may be possible to ‘spin’ facts in a way that does not mislead, but the allegation being made in the article was very much that the object was to mislead the public.
“That supplies the necessary element to make the meanings defamatory at common law.”
The judge rejected an argument put forward by the duke’s legal team that the article accused Harry of lying, saying: “The article does not make that blunt allegation, whether expressly or by implication.
“The hypothetical ordinary reasonable reader would understand the difference, as a matter of fact, between ‘spinning’ facts and ‘lying’.”
Harry is bringing the separate proceedings against the Home Office after being told he would no longer be given the “same degree” of personal protective security when visiting from the US, despite offering to pay for it himself.
A judge gave the go-ahead in July for a full hearing in the duke’s challenge against a decision of the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec), which falls under the remit of the Home Office.
No date has yet been set for that hearing.