Prince Harry loses bid to throw out Mail’s defence to libel claim

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Prince Harry has lost a bid to throw out the Mail on Sunday’s defence to his libel claim about an article detailing his legal fight against the government stripping him of his security.

A judge has ruled that the Mail on Sunday can claim Prince Harry lied about offering to pay for UK security in the royal’s High Court libel case.

The Duke of Sussex, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over a February 2022 article about his legal challenge against the government’s decision to strip him of his security detail when he moved to the US.

Prince Harry’s lawyers have said the story was “an attack on his honesty and integrity”, as it claimed Harry “tried to keep details of his legal battle to reinstate his police protection secret from the public”.

In its defence, the Mail on Sunday were hoping to claim Harry had made a false claim over his willingness to pay for police protection in the UK. In a written ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Nicklin gave this defence a greenlight.

In June 2022, parts of the article were found to have been defamatory by a High Court judge, who concluded that they gave the reader the impression Prince Harry was intentionally attempting to mislead the public.

ANL is contesting the claim, arguing the article expressed an “honest opinion” and did not cause “serious harm” to his reputation.

At a hearing in March, the High Court heard the duke’s bid to strike out ANL’s “honest opinion” defence or grant judgment in his favour on it.

Justin Rushbrooke KC, for Harry, said in written submissions for the March hearing that ANL’s defence to the libel claim “rests upon two provably false premises” relating to a press statement.

The statement, released when Harry first made his legal challenge in January 2022, read: “The duke first offered to pay personally for UK police protection for himself and his family in January of 2020 at Sandringham.

“That offer was dismissed. He remains willing to cover the cost of security, as not to impose on the British taxpayer.”

Harry claims that the February 2020 decision of the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec) to change the degree of his personal protection was “unlawful and unfair”.

However, in a Home Office document prepared for a February 2022 preliminary hearing in Harry’s security claim, the department said his offer of private funding “notably was not advanced to Ravec” at the time of the duke’s visit in June 2021, or in any pre-action correspondence.

The Mail on Sunday article claimed this was “a crushing rebuttal to Harry’s initial public statement that implied he had always been willing to foot the bill”.

Rushbrooke KC told the court it was “absolutely obvious” that the press statement “makes no claim that the claimant (the duke) made an offer to Ravec or the Home Office or that his judicial review proceedings were to challenge a refusal to accept it.”

However, in his statement dismissing the Duke of Sussex’s bid Mr Justice Nicklin said there is a “real prospect” that ANL will succeed in demonstrating that there was a misleading description of the issues in the judicial review claim.

Andrew Caldecott KC, for ANL, previously said the bid to end their defence without a trial was “wholly without merit” and that “the whole case is built on sand”.

He added: “The claimant was responsible for press statements that said he would pay for security when he had never expressed any willingness to pay until after the judicial review.”

The ruling comes just one day after the High Court finished hearing Harry’s claim that Ravec’s decision to change the degree of his personal protection was “unlawful and unfair”.

A different judge’s decision in that case is expected at a later date.

More follows on this breaking story…