The Duke of Sussex’s libel claim against a newspaper publisher for reporting on his safety is due to have its first hearing in the High Court this summer.
Harry is bringing a libel claim against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), publisher of the Mail on Sunday, after the newspaper published an article titled ‘Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight with the Government a secret in the subject of police bodyguards”. …then – just minutes after the story broke – his PR machine tried to put a positive spin on the dispute.”
The article was published in February this year, when the Duke was embroiled in a separate dispute against the Home Office over its security arrangements while in the UK.
Harry’s lawyers say the newspaper’s allegations ‘constitute an attack on his honesty and integrity and undermine his ability to engage in both charitable and philanthropic activities generally’.
Since the Duke first lodged his complaint, a High Court judge has dismissed his request for the question of whether there was ‘serious harm’ to his reputation to be decided in a preliminary trial to be held between June and July.
Judge Nicklin said in a written court order: ‘I declined to conduct the trial on the issue of serious harm.
“I appreciate that the applicant [The Duke of Sussex] the case is based, at this point, solely on an inference, but ultimately it is a question of fact.
“The defendant [ANL] must be given the opportunity to advance any factual case in response to the plaintiff’s inferential case.
“This renders the matter unfit for determination as a preliminary matter.”
Judge said issue of serious harm can only be ‘fairly tried’ as a preliminary issue after each side’s arguments have been argued and after disclosure of evidence and potential cross-examination of witnesses at trial .
If the claim goes to a later full trial, a judge will have to decide whether the article caused serious harm to the Duke.
In a court filing outlining his claim against the LNA, Harry claims his reporting caused him “substantial injury, inconvenience and continuing distress”.
“They are clearly calculated to incite, as they have, public opprobrium,” his lawyers said of the allegations, saying they sparked a “frenzy of hostile comments” online.
Harry’s legal team say the ‘natural and ordinary’ meaning of Mail on Sunday reporting includes that he ‘lied’ about he was always willing to pay for police protection in the UK and that he had “incorrectly and cynically attempted to manipulate and confuse public opinion by allowing his ‘spin-docs’ to make false and misleading statements”.
Judge Nicklin said the pretrial, to be heard on a date between June 7 and July 1, will cover the “natural and ordinary” meaning of the offending report, if it is a statement of fact or opinion and whether it is defamatory.
Harry is taking a 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.
The Duke wants to bring his son Archie and granddaughter Lilibet on a visit from the US, after his lawyers have previously said he and his family are ‘unable to return home’ as it is too dangerous.
The Home Office previously said the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec), which delegated powers from the Home Secretary, had awarded the Duke ‘a form of exceptional status’ where he is considered for personal protective security by the police “the precise terms of which depend on the reason for his presence in Britain and by reference to the duties he performs when present”.
On Friday, it was revealed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their children will attend the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in the UK in June.