Prince Harry tries to have Mail on Sunday's libel defence thrown out

Publisher Associated Newspapers says prince’s libel claim was 'built on sand'

Prince Harry's lawyer told the court that an article published by The Mail on Sunday was 'fundamentally inaccurate'. Reuters
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Prince Harry’s lawyers have asked a judge to rule that a tabloid newspaper libelled him in an article about his need for police protection when in the UK.

His team brought in a bid to have The Mail on Sunday's defence to the libel claim thrown out, the court was told on Friday.

But lawyers for the publisher, Associated Newspapers, told London's High Court that the prince’s libel claim was “built on sand”.

Prince Harry is suing The Mail on Sunday’s publisher over an article alleging he tried to cover up a legal challenge brought against the British government over its refusal to let him pay for police security.

The story was published online and in the newspaper in February 2022 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.”

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

Justin Rushbrooke KC, for Prince Harry, said the facts did not support the publisher’s “substantive pleaded defence”. He said the article was “fundamentally inaccurate”.

He added the article “purported to reveal, in sensational terms” that information from court documents filed by the Duke of Sussex “contradicted public statements he had previously made about his willingness to pay for police protection for himself and his family whilst in the UK”.

The court was told that the case revolves around two statements provided to journalists in January 2022 on Prince Harry's behalf.

One statement could be quoted publicly and the second was to be paraphrased as background information over the duke's decision to bring legal action against the Home Office.

The court heard that in the public statement, Prince Harry and his family were described as “unable to return to his home” due to the lack of police protection needed in the UK.

Mr Rushbrooke said the paper's defence “rests upon two provably false premises” relating to the statements.

The first was a suggestion that the duke had allegedly made a false claim over his willingness to pay for police protection in the UK, while the second was that he had allegedly stated his case against the Home Office was over a refusal to let him pay for this security.

Prince Harry's public statement about the offer was “completely clear”, Mr Rushbrooke said.

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

“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,” he said.

Mr Caldecott added that the argument from Prince Harry amounted to “straitjacketing the newspaper’s right to comment”.

He said it was vital the media speak truth to power, and “speaking opinion to power is every bit [as], if not more, important”, as long as the opinion is based on facts.

A date for a ruling has not been named

Updated: March 17, 2023, 8:03 PM