The Duke of Sussex won the first stage of his libel claim against the Mail publisher on Sunday after a High Court judge ruled that an article about the Duke’s legal claim against the Home Office was defamatory.
It comes as the Mail’s front page this morning was seen as more than a little hysterical.
Harry is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) after the paper published an article following the first hearing of the Duke’s separate complaint to the High Court over his security arrangements while in the UK.
The article was published in February under the title: “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight with the government secret over police bodyguards… then – just minutes after the story erupted – his public relations machine tried to put a positive spin on the conflict.”
At a preliminary hearing in June, Judge Nicklin was asked to determine the “natural and ordinary” meaning of the article and whether it was defamatory.
In a ruling on Friday, the judge ruled the article was defamatory, later adding that it was “phase one” of the defamation claim.
Judge Nicklin said a normal reader would understand from the article that Harry “was responsible for public statements, issued in his name, which claimed he was prepared to pay for police protection in the UK, and that his legal challenge was about the government’s refusal to allow him to do so, when the reality, as reflected in the documents filed in the court proceedings, was that he had only made an offer to pay only after the opening of the procedure”.
He also said the article would have been read as giving the opinion that Harry “was responsible for attempting to mislead and confuse the public as to the true position, which was ironic given that he now played a public role in the fight against “disinformation”.
Judge Nicklin added: “It may be possible to ‘misdirect’ the facts in a way that is not misleading, but the allegation made in the article was largely that the subject matter was d mislead the public.
“This provides the necessary element to render defamatory service at common law.”
The lead judge also found that the article did not suggest that Harry was “seeking to keep his ‘legal battle’ with the government secret”, although that might be suggested by the headline if read on its own.
He continued: “Read as a whole, the article was quite clear that he was seeking certain restrictions of confidentiality with respect to ‘documents and witness statements’ in the proceedings, and not general secrecy on the matter. ‘all of the request.’
The judge concluded that an ordinary reader would understand the article to mean that Harry ‘originally requested confidentiality restrictions of a far-reaching and unjustifiable scale and were rightly challenged by the Home Office “.
Friday’s judgment concerns only the “objective significance” of the article, Judge Nicklin said. ANL will now have the opportunity to file a defense against the Duke’s claim.
Harry’s lawyers had previously argued that the article was defamatory and meant that Harry had “lied”, had “incorrectly and cynically” attempted to manipulate public opinion and had “tried to keep his legal fight with the government a secret”. audience”.
However, in his judgment on Friday, Judge Nicklin rejected the argument that the article accused Harry of lying.
He said: ‘The article does not make this direct allegation, either expressly or by implication. The ordinary hypothetical reasonable reader would understand the difference, in fact, between ‘turning’ facts and ‘lying’.
public relations machine
Lawyers for the LNA had argued the article focused on statements from Harry’s ‘PR machine’ rather than the Duke himself.
However, Judge Nicklin disagreed and ruled: “Of course, it is possible that the public statements issued on behalf of the plaintiff by the ‘public relations machine’ were made without his knowledge or approval. , but this is not the ordinary reading of the article.
“A reader might expect, if that was the message conveyed, that it would be clarified.
“Without this clarification, the reader’s natural reaction would be that the plaintiff was responsible for public statements made on his behalf.”
Justice Nicklin said parts of the article would have been considered expressions of opinion, including criticism of “unjustifiably broad” confidentiality restrictions.
Harry is taking his High Court challenge against the Home Office after being told he would no longer have the ‘same degree’ of personal protection security when visiting from the US, despite having offered to pay for it himself.
On Thursday, Harry’s lawyers asked a High Court judge to allow a full judicial review of the decision of the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec) – which falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior.
A decision on whether to pursue this claim will be made at a later date.
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