The Duke of Sussex is to ask a High Court judge to rule in his favour without a trial in his libel case against the Mail on Sunday, as he aims to echo his wife’s legal success against the same newspaper.
Prince Harry will apply for a strike out or summary judgment at a hearing due to be scheduled in the next two months after both sides failed to reach a settlement.
He sued Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over an article published last February that said he had tried to keep “secret” parts of his legal fight with the Home Office over his security and had attempted to “spin” the dispute in his favour by claiming he had offered to pay for police protection.
The piece suggested that when news of the Duke’s legal battle with the Government was first revealed, his PR team released a statement saying that he had offered to “pay personally for UK police protection”, but that it was refused.
The Duke argued that the story suggested he had lied and had “improperly and cynically tried to manipulate and confuse public opinion”.
Two-year legal battle
It comes after the Duchess of Sussex successfully sued the same newspaper group over the publication of a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle.
In February 2021, after a two-year battle, the High Court granted a summary judgment in her favour, which she claimed as a “comprehensive win” over the newspaper’s “illegal and dehumanising practices”.
The Duke’s lawyers have argued in his case that he made an offer to pay for security for himself and his family whenever they are in the UK at a meeting at Sandringham in January 2020, at which the late Queen and King Charles were present.
He then reiterated his offer at a meeting with Sir Mark Sedwill, then cabinet secretary and UK home security adviser, the following month, they said.
However, part of ANL’s defence is that the offer was not made or communicated to the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec).
The newspaper group is contesting the claim on the basis the article expressed an “honest opinion” and will also argue it did not cause “serious harm” to his reputation.
Failure to reach a settlement
Legal proceedings were temporarily paused last month to allow both sides to negotiate, but they failed to reach a settlement before the deadline, last Friday.
In July, Mr Justice Nicklin ruled in the Duke’s favour in the first stage of the claim, concluding that the royal was defamed by parts of the story because it suggested that his actions were “discreditable” and that he had intended to “mislead the public”.
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’.”
The amount recoverable by Harry in the event that he wins the claim has been set at £341,739 – almost half the £631,035 sought by the Duke.
Prince Harry is bringing two separate legal 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.