British Prince Harry’s libel case against publisher ‘built on sand’, London court said

  • British prince sues paper over safety story
  • Paper defends article as ‘honest opinion’
  • Lawsuit is final legal battle by Harry wife Meghan

LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) – Prince Harry’s libel claim over an article about his security arrangements is “built on sand”, lawyers for publishing house Associated Newspapers told a London court on Friday, which opposed the British royal family’s bid to win the case without going to court.

Harry, the youngest son of King Charles, sued Associated Newspapers last year over an article in the Mail on Sunday newspaper alleging that he had only offered to pay for police protection after launching a separate legal battle against the British government.

The article accused Harry, 38, of attempting to mislead the public about his legal battle with the government over his government-funded protections, which were withdrawn after he stepped down from royal duties in 2020.

London’s High Court ruled in July that the Mail report was defamatory, clearing the way for Harry to pursue the case against one of Britain’s largest media publishers.

Harry’s lawyers told Judge Matthew Nicklin on Friday that Harry first offered to pay for police protection during a crisis meeting with the late Queen Elizabeth, his father and brother Prince William at the royal estate of Sandringham in January 2020.

Justin Rushbrooke said Associated Newspapers had no factual basis for its defense and asked the court to rule in Harry’s favor without the need for a trial.

However, Associated Newspapers lawyer Andrew Caldecott said it has a strong “fair opinion” argument and that Harry’s attempt to win the case without trial was “totally baseless”.

Caldecott said a statement from Harry’s representatives in January 2022 – a month before the article at the center of the lawsuit – falsely claimed that the government had refused Harry’s offer to pay for police protection.

He also said Harry admitted he did not offer to pay in correspondence with the British government before taking legal action, adding: “This whole thing is built on sand.”

A ruling on Harry’s application to win the case without trial is expected at a later date.

The case is one of many brought against the tabloid press by Harry and his American wife Meghan in recent years, after they cited media interference as one of the reasons for relinquishing royal duties and moving to California.

There will be a hearing later this month in another case Harry has filed with and others against Associated Newspapers, which will seek to clear allegations of wiretapping and other privacy violations.

His lawsuit against the Daily Mirror newspaper over phone hacking allegations will go to trial in May, with Harry likely to testify.

He is also suing News Group Newspapers, the publisher of the now-defunct News of the World and The Sun, for alleged phone hacking.

Reporting by Michael Holden and Sam Tobin Edited by Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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