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Prince Harry ordered to pay £50,000 to Mail on Sunday in libel case

Prince Harry has been ordered to pay the Mail on Sunday nearly £50,000 in damages as part of his ongoing libel case against the newspaper.

The Duke of Sussex is suing the newspaper’s publishers, Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), over an article about his legal battle with the Home Office concerning his security arrangements in the UK.

Now, a judge has ordered Harry, 39, to pay £48,000 in legal costs after he lost his bid to have part of the newspaper’s defence in the case struck down.

The duke filed the legal challenge in January 2022 and his case to have part of ANL’s defence was heard in March this year.

Last week, High Court judge Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that ANL can proceed with the “honest opinion” defence in the libel case, with Harry suing the news group over a February 2022 article about the government’s decision to strip him off taxpayer-funded security after relocating to the US.

Mr Justice Nicklin argued that ANL had a “real prospect” of arguing its position and that the case should go to trial. As a result, Harry must pay the newspaper costs of £48,447 by 29 December, the judge ordered.

Lawyers for Harry argued that the original article was libellous, calling it an attack on “his honesty and integrity”.

The story was titled: “How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight with the government over bodyguards a secret … then – just minutes after the story broke – his PR machine tried to put positive spin on the dispute.”

His counsel said the news article suggested Harry had “lied” and “tried to keep details of his legal battle to reinstate his police protection secret from the public”.

ANL countered his claim, with their lawyers arguing it expressed an “honest opinion” and did not cause “serious harm” to Harry’s reputation.

The duke’s bid to strike out the newspaper’s “honest opinion” defence was heard in March.

In written submissions, Harry’s lawyer Justin Rushbrooke KC argued that the newspaper’s defence should be thrown out because it “rests upon two provably false premises” relating to a press statement released by Harry when he made the legal challenge.

Harry is challenging the Royalty and VIP Executive Committee (RAVEC) decision not to grant him automatic police protection in the UK since stepping down as a senior member of the British royal family, and moving to California with his family.

His statement read: “The duke first offered to pay personally for UK police protection for himself and his family in January of 2020 at Sandringham.

“That offer was dismissed. He remains willing to cover the cost of security, as not to impose on the British taxpayer.”

However, Ravec in February 2022 said his offer of private funding “notably was not advanced” to the department, in a document prepared for a preliminary hearing of the security claim.

The Mail on Sunday described this as “a crushing rebuttal to Harry’s initial public statement that implied he had always been willing to foot the bill” while adding that the press statement issued on behalf of the duke confused the media and misinformed the public.

At the hearing in March, Rushbrooke KC said it was“absolutely obvious” that Harry’s statement “makes no claim that the claimant (the duke) made an offer to Ravec or the Home Office or that his judicial review proceedings were to challenge a refusal to accept it”.

Meanwhile, Andrew Caldecott KC, for ANL, said the attempt to dismiss its “honest opinion” defence without trial was “wholly without merit”, adding that Harry’s case against his client is “built on sand”.

“The claimant was responsible for press statements that said he would pay for security when he had never expressed any willingness to pay until after the judicial review.”

Friday’s ruling was announced one day after the High Court finished hearing Harry’s claim that Ravec’s decision to scale back his security arrangements was “unlawful and unfair”.

A verdict is expected at a later date.

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