Prince Harry.

Prince Harry wins first round of High Court libel battle in latest in security saga

A HIGH COURT judge has ruled that an article about Prince Harry’s legal claim against the Home Office was defamatory.

The piece 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.”

Lawyers for the Prince argued that the article meant that Harry had “lied”, had “improperly and cynically” tried to manipulate public opinion and had “tried to keep his legal fight with Government secret from the public” and, therefore, the article was defamatory.

Justin Rushbrooke QC, for Harry, said: “Allegations that a person has lied to the public, manipulated the public and attempted to keep secret which ought properly to be public are serious ones which tend to lower him in the eyes of right-thinking people.”

ANL’s Lawyers argued that the article was not defamatory.

Andrew Caldecott QC, for ANL, said: “The article does allege that the claimant’s PR team spun the story, or added a gloss unduly favourable to the claimant, which led to inaccurate reporting and confusion about the nature of the claim.

“It does not allege dishonesty against them.”

Following the arguments, Justice Nicklin found pin a ruling on Friday that parts of the article in the claim were defamatory.

Discussing one of the meanings of the article, Justice Nicklin said: “[A reader would think 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.”

Justice Nicklin found that very much of article’s “object was to mislead the public”.

He said: “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.”

Prince Harry

The ruling is the latest win for the Prince in the courts. (Image: GETTY)

He said: “Read as a whole, the article was quite clear that he was seeking certain confidentiality restrictions in relation to ‘documents and witness statements’ in the proceedings, not blanket secrecy on the whole claim.”

He found that an ordinary reader would have understood the article to mean that the Duke of Sussex “had initially sought confidentiality restrictions that were far-reaching and unjustifiably wide and were rightly challenged by the Home Office”.

Friday’s judgment only relates to the “objective meaning” of the article, Mr Justice Nicklin said, adding it is the first stage in the libel claim.


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