Prince Harry has followed in his wife Meghan Markle’s footsteps by winning the first stage of his legal claim against British tabloid the Mail on Sunday.
The prince, who is also known by his title the Duke of Sussex, filed a claim against the newspaper’s publisher Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over a series of articles which he claimed caused “serious damage to his reputation and substantial hurt, embarrassment and distress which is continuing.”
A judge has today ruled the Mail on Sunday’s articles about Harry were defamatory. The newspaper can still try and defend the articles, for example by claiming they were true.
“This is very much the first phase in a libel claim,” Judge Nicklin said, according to the BBC. “The next step will be for the defendant to file a defence to the claim. It will be a matter for determination later in the proceedings whether the claim succeeds or fails, and if so on what basis.”
Harry launched the lawsuit in February of this year after the Mail on Sunday reported on another legal claim he is pursuing against the British government.
In his case against the U.K.’s Home Office, Harry is seeking a judicial review in order to force the government to provide police protection for himself and his family, including Archie and Lilibet, his two young children with Markle. The family lost their full protection after Harry and Meghan “stepped back” from official duties in 2020, moving first to Canada and then to California.
The Sussexes have indicated they are willing to pay for the security themselves but want official police protection via the Home Office rather than private security. However there are fears this could result in a precedent in which the U.K. government is expected to provide police protection for any celebrity visiting the U.K, potentially straining police resources.
Harry claims that when the Mail on Sunday reported on his case against the Home Office, they implied his offer to pay for the security himself wasn’t true.
The story ran in print and online under the headline: “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight over bodyguards a secret… then minutes after MoS broke the story his PR machine tried to put positive spin on the dispute.”
The articles “manipulate[d] and confuse[d] public opinion” against Harry, his lawsuit claims, especially in their reference to “spin doctors” (a British slang term for publicists, particularly in the political sphere). The articles suggested that Harry had authorized the “spin doctors” to “put out false and misleading statements about his willingness to pay for police protection,” he said in his lawsuit.
The suggestions in the articles were “self-evidently exceptionally serious and damaging,” the lawsuit continued, constituting “an attack on his honesty and integrity and undermine his fitness to be involved both in charitable and philanthropic work in general, and in efforts to tackle online misinformation in particular (through the Archewell Foundation).”
He has requested aggravated damages for libel, an injunction barring the Mail on Sunday from re-publishing the claims and an order to compel the Mail on Sunday to publish its judgment.
It’s been a busy week for Harry and his lawyers as his case against the Home Office is also progressing. A hearing was held yesterday (July 7) in which Harry’s legal team told the court they felt the decision to withdraw the prince’s police protection was “unsound” due to “procedural unfairness,” according to the BBC.
This is because the committee that made the decision included members of the Royal Household – with whom there were “significant tensions” following Harry and Meghan’s decision to step back from official duties and move abroad.
The prince’s lawyer also reportedly told the court that Harry’s offer to pay for police protection himself “was not conveyed” to the committee. The case continues.
Last December Harry’s wife Meghan won her own case – for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement – against the Mail on Sunday after the newspaper published a newspaper she wrote to her father Thomas Markle.