High Court judge rules news article at centre of Duke of Sussex libel case defamatory

High court judge rules news article at centre of Duke of Sussex libel case defamatory

High court judge rules news article at centre of Duke of Sussex libel case defamatory Image - Shutterstock: ComposedPix

A High Court judge has ruled that part of an article by Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) at the centre of the Duke of Sussex libel case had been defamatory.

The ruling on July 8 follows the Duke’s High Court claim to retain his legal right to police protection during his and his family’s visit to the UK.

Published in February the article said: “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.”

Mr Justice Nicklin was asked to determine whether statements in the article were defamatory in June. In revealing his findings he said that parts of the article gave readers the impression that Prince Harry was intentionally attempting to mislead the public.

His ruling said amongst others that a reader would think Harry “was responsible for public statements, issued on his behalf, which claimed that he was willing to pay for police protection in the UK and that his legal challenge was to the Government’s refusal to permit him to do so, whereas the true position, as revealed in documents filed in the legal proceedings, was that he had only made the offer to pay after the proceedings had commenced.”

He added: “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.”

Justice Nicklin concluded: “That supplies the necessary element to make the meanings defamatory at common law.”

Justin Rushbrooke QC, for Harry, had argued that the article was defamatory implying that Prince Harry “lied”, and had “improperly and cynically” tried to manipulate public opinion and had “tried to keep his legal fight with the Government secret from the public.”

The judge agreed with Rushbrooke who said: “Allegations that a person has lied to the public, manipulated the public and attempted to keep secret which ought properly to be public are serious ones which tend to lower him in the eyes of right-thinking people.”

The ruling is the first in the libel case against ANL which is continuing. Solicitors acting for ANL who publish The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Mail and Mail Online, have said that the ruling “added a gloss unduly favourable to the claimant.”

This judgment is just the first stage in the Duke of Sussex’s libel claim against ANL, and the publisher is now due to file their defence to the case.

Justice Nicklin confirmed that the ruling was to confirm the meaning of certain words in the article saying: “This is very much the first phase in a libel claim.

“The next step will be for the defendant to file a defence to the claim.

“It will be a matter for determination later in the proceedings whether the claim succeeds or fails, and if so on what basis.”

The High Court libel case will now continue after the news article at the centre of the Duke of Sussex’s libel case was deemed defamatory, in what is the first stage of the case.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.