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In their undeclared eternal war with certain quarters of the British press, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are finding even more success against a particularly persistent adversary. On Friday, a High Court judge in London ruled in favor of the Duke of Sussex that parts of a Mail on Sunday article were defamatory – less than a year after the same newspaper had to pay damages to Meghan Markle for infringing her copyright.
The latest case centered on an article published by the media concerning a separate legal action brought by Prince Harry against the British government over its security arrangements. Harry’s solicitor said he was suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), owner of the Mail on Sunday– because the story had falsely suggested that he had “lied” and “cynically” tried to influence public opinion about his case against the British government. ANL said the article was not defamatory.
The court, however, sided with Harry in their decision. Under media law in England, the ruling is only the first step in a libel claim; the newspaper can now file a defense if it wants to continue fighting the case. “It will be a matter to be determined later in the proceedings whether the application succeeds or fails, and if so on what basis,” the judge, Judge Nicklin, said.
At last month’s preliminary hearing, Harry said in a statement that the article caused him “substantial injury, embarrassment and distress”. Justin Rushbrooke, his lawyer, said the article suggested Harry had “lied in his first public statements” by claiming he had always been willing to pay for police protection while in the UK ( Harry has lived with Meghan Markle in California since March 2020.) The article said he only offered to pay “recently” after a visit to the UK in June 2021.
Whether or not the Mail on Sunday will continue the fight remains to be seen, but they certainly have the form for protracted legal battles. In August 2018, ANL published five print and online articles which included excerpts from a private handwritten letter Meghan Markle sent to her estranged father, Thomas. Meghan’s lawyers have argued that the articles, published by the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline – had invaded his privacy and violated his copyright. After a long and turbulent legal battle, Meghan prevailed in December 2021 with ANL publishing a 64-word story saying they lost the case in print and online.
“This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever been afraid to stand up for what is right,” Meghan said in a statement after the ruling. “While this victory sets a precedent, 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 they create. “
The decision in Harry’s favor against ANL came the day after the case revealed ‘significant tensions’ between Harry and one of the Queen’s top aides.