There’s real royal news and there’s fake royal news, apparently. There’s a new report that says part of a Mail on Sunday article about Prince Harry were defamatory, according to a High Court judge. Harry is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) after the paper ran a story following the first hearing in the duke’s separate High Court claim over his security arrangements when he was in the UK. Here’s what you need to know.
According to reports, the story was published in February 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.”
British Royal News: Judge Says Mail on Sunday Article Was Defamatory Towards Prince Harry
At a hearing in June, Mr Justice Nicklin was asked to determine the “natural and ordinary” meaning of the parts of the article in the claim, and whether they were defamatory. And now in a ruling, the judge found that parts of the article in the claim were defamatory.
Discussing one of the meanings of the article, Mr Justice Nicklin said 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 also said the article would have been read as alleging Harry “was responsible for trying to mislead and confuse the public as to the true position, which was ironic given that he now held a public role in tackling ‘misinformation.’”
Justice Nicklin 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. That supplies the necessary element to make the meanings defamatory at common law.”
The senior judge also found that the article did not suggest that Harry “was seeking to keep his ‘legal battle’ with the government secret”, though it was suggested by the headline if read alone. He continued: “Read as a whole, the article was quite clear that he was seeking certain confidentiality restrictions in relation to ‘documents and witness statements’ in the proceedings, not blanket secrecy on the whole claim.”
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