Prince Harry suffers legal setback in High Court battle with Mail on Sunday

Prince Harry (AP)
Prince Harry (AP)

Prince Harry has suffered a defeat in his High Court libel battle with the publisher of the Mail on Sunday.

The Duke of Sussex is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over news articles about his legal war with the Home Office over his security arrangements.

Harry, 39, has challenged the government over the way a decision was taken about his security on visits to the UK after stepping down as working Royal.

The newspaper group published a story in February 2022 under the headline: “Exclusive: How [/topic/prince-harry]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”.

The Duke says the article was “an attack on his honesty and integrity”, and would undermine his charity work and efforts to tackle misinformation online.

ANL is contesting Harry’s libel claim, arguing the article expressed an “honest opinion” and also that it did not cause “serious harm” to his reputation.

The Duke applied for ANL’s defence to the libel action to be struck out, or for summary judgment, to bring the case to an instant conclusion in his favour.

But ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Nicklin concluded the “defence of honest opinion has a real prospect of success and should go forward to trial.

“(ANL) has a real prospect, at trial, of demonstrating that the Duke of Sussex had not made an offer to the Government to pay for his security before he began his proceedings for judicial review.”

Central to the case is a meeting between the late Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry, King Charles, and Prince William at Sandringham, when the Duke says he first made the offer to personally pay for the cost of state security for him and his family on UK visits.

The judge concluded the court “may find that the Sandringham offer is irrelevant to the defence of honest opinion”.

The libel case is running alongside a separate legal battle between Prince Harry and the government over the issue of security.

A decision was taken in February 2020 by the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec) - which falls under the remit of the Home Office – to downgrade the Duke’s security status.

Each visit to the UK is now arranged on a case-by-case basis, rather than Harry being granted automatic access to a security detail.

A hearing on the future of the libel case is now expected on Tuesday next week, with a full trial pencilled in for 2024.