Prince Harry wins first step of UK newspaper libel case

A newspaper article that claimed Prince Harry’s PR team had “put a positive spin” on a dispute with the UK government over who paid for his bodyguards was defamatory, a British judge ruled on Friday.

Harry, who quit royal frontline duties in 2020 with wife Meghan, sued the Mail on Sunday’s publisher Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over the article, which was published in February.

The article related to another of Harry’s legal battles at the High Court in London over his security arrangements when he is in the UK.

In the legal claim against the government, the Duke of Sussex, as he is formally known, has appealed for a review of the interior ministry’s refusal to allow him to pay for police protection, arguing the decision means he cannot return home safely.

The piece was published under the headline: “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight with the government over police bodyguards a secret… then — just minutes after the story broke — his PR machine tried to put a positive spin on the dispute.”

Harry said in a written statement the report caused him “substantial hurt, embarrassment and distress”.

Judge Matthew Nicklin on Friday found that parts of the article suggesting the prince had, in the words of his lawyer Justin Rushbrooke, tried to “improperly and cynically” manipulate public opinion, were defamatory.

“It may be possible to ‘spin’ facts in a way that does not mislead, but the allegation being made in the article was very much that the object was to mislead the public,” said the judge.

“That supplies the necessary element to make the meanings defamatory at common law.”

Friday’s ruling is the first stage in the libel claim, added Nicklin. (AFP)

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