Parts of an article in The Mail on Sunday about the Duke of Sussex’s legal case against the Home Office were libelous, a High Court judge ruled in the first stage of the Duke’s libel claim.
Harry is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) after the paper published a story after the first hearing in the Duke’s separate High Court claim over his security arrangements when in the UK.
The article was published in February under the headline: “Exclusive: How Prince Harry Tried To Keep His Legal Fight With The Government A Secret Over Police Bodyguards… Then Just Minutes After The Law Was Released story, his public relations machine tried to put a positive spin on the dispute.”
At a hearing in June, Judge Nicklin was asked to determine the “natural and ordinary” meaning of parts of the lawsuit article and whether they were defamatory.
It may be possible to “misrepresent” the facts in a non-misleading way, but the accusation made in the article was largely that the goal was to mislead the public.
Mr. Justice Nicklin, Superior Court
In a ruling Friday, the judge found parts of the lawsuit’s article defamatory.
Discussing one of the meanings of the article, Justice Nicklin said that a reader would think that Harry “was responsible for public statements, issued on his behalf, that he was willing to pay for police protection in the UK and that his The legal challenge was the Government’s refusal to allow it, while the true position, according to the documents presented in the judicial process, was that it had only made the payment offer after the process had begun.
He also said the article would have been interpreted to mean that Harry “was responsible for trying to mislead and mislead the public as to his true position, which was ironic given that he now had a public role in fighting ‘disinformation'”.
Judge Nicklin added: “It may be possible to ‘twist’ the facts in a way that is not misleading, but the charge made in the article was very much that the aim was to mislead the public.
“That provides the necessary element to make the meanings defamatory in common law.”
Read as a whole, the article made it quite clear that it sought certain confidentiality restrictions in relation to “documents and witness statements” in the proceedings, not general secrecy of the entire complaint.
Mr. Justice Nicklin, Superior Court
The chief judge also found that the article did not suggest that Harry “was trying to keep his ‘legal battle’ with the government a secret”, although the headline suggested that if read alone.
He continued: “Read as a whole, the article made it quite clear that it sought certain confidentiality restrictions in relation to ‘documents and witness statements’ in the proceedings, not general secrecy of the entire claim.”
The judge considered that an ordinary reader would take the article to mean that Harry had “initially sought secrecy restrictions which were far-reaching and unreasonably broad and which the Home Office rightly challenged”.
Friday’s trial only relates to the “objective meaning” of the article, Judge Nicklin said, adding that it is the first stage in the libel claim.
Harry’s lawyers previously argued that the article was defamatory and meant that Harry had “lied,” tried to manipulate public opinion “inappropriately and cynically” and had “tried to keep his legal fight with the government secret from the public.” public”.
However, at his sentencing on Friday, Judge Nicklin rejected the argument that the article accused Harry of lying.
He said: “The article does not make that forceful accusation, either expressly or by implication. The hypothetical common and reasonable reader would understand the difference, in fact, between ‘misrepresented’ and ‘false’ facts”.
Lawyers for ANL had argued that the article focused on statements issued by Harry’s “PR machine” and not by the Duke himself.
However, Judge Nicklin disagreed, ruling: “Of course, it is possible that the public statements issued on the plaintiff’s behalf by the ‘public relations machine’ may have been made without his knowledge or approval, but that is not the case. ordinary reading of the article.
“A reader might hope, if that was the message being conveyed, that it would be clear.
“Without that clarification, the reader’s natural reaction would be that the claimant was responsible for the public statements issued on his behalf.”
Judge Nicklin said that parts of the article would have been seen as expressions of opinion, including criticism of “unjustifiably broad” confidentiality restrictions.
Harry is taking his High Court challenge against the Home Office after being told he would no longer receive the ‘same degree’ of personal protection security when visiting from the US, even though he offered to pay for it. the same.
On Thursday, Harry’s lawyers asked a High Court judge to authorize a full judicial review of the decision by the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec), which falls under the purview of the Home Office.
A decision on whether this claim can proceed will be given at a later date.