High Court backs Daily Mail's ‘honest opinion’, rules out Prince Harry | World News - Hindustan Times
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High Court backs Daily Mail's ‘honest opinion’, rules out Prince Harry in the libel lawsuit

Dec 09, 2023 08:08 AM IST

Prince Harry's legal battle with the Daily Mail as the High Court ruling raises the possibility that the tabloid's defense, claiming 'honest opinion,' might win

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has faced a setback in his libel lawsuit against the publisher of the Daily Mail tabloid.

FILE - A London judge on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023 said the Duke of Sussex had failed to knock out Associated Newspaper Ltd’s defense that its article reflected an honest opinion. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)(AP)
FILE - A London judge on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023 said the Duke of Sussex had failed to knock out Associated Newspaper Ltd’s defense that its article reflected an honest opinion. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)(AP)

The High Court in London ruled on Friday that the newspaper’s defense that their article was an “honest opinion” about Harry’s attempt to maintain publicly funded security in the UK after stepping back from royal duties has a “real prospect” of success.

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The article in question, published in February 2022, suggested that Prince Harry tried to conceal his legal battle with the government over police protection and that his public relations team attempted to positively spin the story once it became public.

Justice Matthew Nicklin’s decision allows the publisher, Associated Newspapers Ltd., to continue arguing that the article was not libelous. The judge highlighted the possibility of the defense presenting the case as a “masterclass in the art of ‘spinning,'” which was “successful in misleading and/or confusing the public.”

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A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the implications of this ruling

This development follows a separate legal proceeding where arguments were heard—largely in private—over three days regarding the government’s decision to remove Harry’s security detail after he relocated to the U.S. in 2020. Prince Harry, aged 39 and the younger son of King Charles III, is contesting the government’s policy of providing security on a case-by-case basis during his visits to Britain. He has expressed concerns about the safety of himself and his family due to social media hostility and media scrutiny.

The Mail on Sunday and Mail Online’s article titled “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” is at the center of the libel case. Prince Harry maintains that the article was “fundamentally inaccurate” and defamed him by implying he was dishonest in his initial public statements about the legal challenge.

While Associated Newspapers Ltd. contends that the article was an expression of “honest opinion” and did not cause significant harm to Harry’s reputation, Justice Nicklin had previously determined that the article was defamatory but had not addressed its accuracy or public interest value.

Prince Harry's legal saga

On the other hand, the government defends its action to withdraw full-time protection for Prince Harry, citing his resignation from his senior royal role. The government asserts that Harry was treated equitably and has been provided with occasional security during his UK visits.

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Earlier this year, another judge dismissed Harry’s proposal to privately fund the Metropolitan Police for his protection in Britain. A government attorney argued that police officers should not serve as “private bodyguards for the wealthy.”

The dispute with the Daily Mail is one of four ongoing lawsuits Prince Harry has filed against British tabloid publishers. He accuses journalists from the Mail, the Daily Mirror, and the Sun of employing unlawful methods, such as deception, phone hacking, or hiring private investigators, to gather information about him.

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