A newspaper article about Prince Harry’s legal battle over security with the UK government was defamatory, according to a High Court judge.
The ruling is the first stage of a libel lawsuit that Harry filed against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
Prince Harry could now take his case against Associated Newspapers to trial after parts of their reporting were ruled to be defamatory.
Queen Elizabeth’s grandson had launched a separate legal case to force UK authorities to provide police protection for himself and his family when they are in the country.
The British government withdrew the prince’s round-the-clock protection when Harry and his wife, Meghan, gave up front-line royal duties and moved to the United States.
In February, the Mail on Sunday reported that Harry sought a “far-reaching confidentiality order” to keep the details of his case secret. The newspaper also claimed that the prince had not offered to pay for police protection in his initial bid to overturn the government’s decision.
Harry claims that the Mail on Sunday libelled him by suggesting that he “cynically” tried to confuse the public by authorising his representatives to put out “false and misleading statements” about his willingness to pay for police protection.
High Court Justice Matthew Nicklin on Friday that the “natural or ordinary meaning” of the article was defamatory.
But he stressed that the decision didn’t apply to other issues in the case, and Associated Newspapers can defend that their story was either accurate or in the public interest.
“This is very much the first phase in a libel claim,” the judge wrote in his decision. “It will be a matter for determination later in the proceedings whether the claim succeeds or fails, and if so on what basis.”
Last year, Harry’s wife Meghan won a separate claim against the Mail on Sunday after it printed extracts of a handwritten letter she wrote to her estranged father in 2018.
The UK royal family’s relationship with the press was severely tainted after Harry’s mother Diana was killed in a car accident in 1997 after being chased by reporters.