Prince Harry Wins First Stage in Libel Lawsuit Against 'Mail on Sunday ' Publisher

The Duke of Sussex sued Associated Newspapers for libel over a February article that alleged he tried to keep the details of his legal fight to reinstate his police protection in the U.K. secret

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex is seen prior to the Wheelchair Basketball Finals match between Team Netherlands and Team US
Prince Harry. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

Prince Harry received an early victory in his lawsuit against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday.

A High Court judge in London paved the way for Harry to take his libel claim to trial when he ruled on Friday that a Mail on Sunday article about the royal's legal battle with the British government over his police protection in the country was defamatory.

The Duke of Sussex, 37, is suing Associated Newspapers for libel over an article that alleged he tried to keep the details of his legal fight to reinstate his police protection in the U.K. secret, and that his aides had then tried to put a positive spin on it.

The article, published online and in print in February, was titled: "How Harry tried to keep his legal fight over bodyguards secret … then minutes after MoS broke story his PR machine tried to put positive spin on the dispute."

According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Justice Nicklin found that parts of the article in the claim were defamatory. Nicklin said the article "as a whole" did not suggest that Harry "was seeking to keep his 'legal battle' with the Government secret," but it was suggested by the headline if "read alone."

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex looks on during the medal ceremony for the Women's 50m Breaststroke ISD during the Swimming on day four of the Invictus Games The Hague 2020 at Zuiderpark on April 19, 2022 in The Hague, Netherlands.
Prince Harry. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty

On Thursday, Prince Harry's lawyers asked the High Court to grant permission for a judicial review against a Home Office decision preventing him from personally funding police protection for himself and his family while in the U.K. His legal team told the High Court in London that Harry "does not feel safe" bringing his two children to the U.K. after the loss of his taxpayer-funded police protection and the level of security intelligence with it.

The Mail on Sunday article in question claimed that Prince Harry tried to hide litigation against the British Home Office regarding the security issue and claimed that he did not offer to fund his protection during a U.K. visit in June 2021 to unveil a statue of his late mother, Princess Diana.

Judge Nicklin reiterated that the ruling was "very much the first phase in a libel claim."

"The next step will be for the defendant to file a defence to the claim," he said. "It will be a matter for determination later in the proceedings whether the claim succeeds or fails, and if so on what basis."

Meghan Markle previously received a symbolic £1 ($1.36) in damages from the Mail on Sunday after successfully winning her legal case against the paper for publishing a personal letter she sent to her father in 2018.

Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee then and now
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty

In addition, the U.K. newspaper will pay an unspecified sum for the separate case of infringing Meghan's copyright by publishing parts of the five-page letter she wrote to her father shortly after her royal wedding to Prince Harry in 2018, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE. The unspecified sum will be donated to charity. The symbolic £1 was awarded for her privacy claim.

In a statement on Dec. 2 following the ruling, the Duchess of Sussex said, "This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what's right."

She noted, "While this win is precedent setting, what matters most is that we are now collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel, and profits from the lies and pain that they create."

Prince Harry, 37, and Meghan, 40, have also sued photographers after images surfaced of their son Archie playing in the backyard of their former Los Angeles home.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex pose at the IGF Reception during day two of the Invictus Games The Hague 2020 at Zuiderpark on April 17, 2022 in The Hague, Netherlands.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Chris Jackson/Getty

In 2019, Harry filed a legal claim against News UK (owner of The Sun) and MGN (former owner of The Mirror) regarding the alleged illegal interception of voicemail messages.

"Every individual and family member in California is guaranteed by law the right to privacy in their home. No drones, helicopters or telephoto lenses can take away that right," their attorney, Michael Kump of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP, said in a statement. "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are filing this lawsuit to protect their young son's right to privacy in their home without intrusion by photographers, and to uncover and stop those who seek to profit from these illegal actions."

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