"The Defendant has a real prospect, at trial, of demonstrating that the Duke of Sussex had not made an offer to the Government to pay for his security before he began his proceedings for judicial review," Justice Matthew Nicklin said
Prince Harry may be called to give evidence in London court next year after losing an attempt to have the Mail on Sunday's defense of his libel lawsuit thrown out.
On Friday, Justice Matthew Nicklin said in his judgment that the Duke of Sussex’s lawsuit against Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) over a 2022 article alleging that he only offered to pay for police protection after bringing a separate legal fight against the British government should proceed to trial. ANL is the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.
Prince Harry, 39, tried to have ANL’s defense dismissed earlier this year. In March, his legal team argued that Harry had initially offered to pay for police protection at a meeting at Sandringham with his grandmother Queen Elizabeth, his father King Charles and elder brother Prince William in January 2020. The much-discussed meeting, since dubbed "the Sandringham Summit," brought the family members together to discuss what Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s future might look like after they announced their intention to step back from their senior royal roles.
In March, the Associated Press reported that would have been “a ruling in the prince’s favor without going to trial” if the High Court decided to toss ANL’s defense or deliver a summary judgment. However, Justice Nicklin said on Friday that it should be heard in court.
“The Defendant [ANL] has a real prospect, at trial, of demonstrating that the Duke of Sussex had not made an offer to the Government to pay for his security before he began his proceedings for judicial review,” the British High Court judge announced, per the BBC.
According to the outlet, the Mail on Sunday is arguing that Prince Harry did not extend the offer to the government after the Sandringham meeting and only pitched the idea after initiating the claim for a judicial review. Reuters recapped that the report accused the prince of “attempting to mislead the public about his willingness to pay for the policing,” noting that the protection was pulled after the step back in 2020.
Looking ahead, the BBC said that ANL can use the honest opinion defense, which protects individuals or organizations from being held liable for defamation in litigation where statements are made as opinions, not false statements of fact, and a trial is now expected to be held in 2024.
The update comes the day after the Duke of Sussex stressed his concerns about his family’s safety in the U.K. as part of another lawsuit.
As part of a three-day hearing in London, Prince Harry’s lawyers shared a statement from the Duke of Sussex, who did not appear in court. Prince Harry said he "felt forced" to step back from his royal role and leave the U.K. in 2020, citing security concerns for his family: his wife Meghan and their two children, son Prince Archie, 4, and daughter Princess Lilibet, 2.
"It was with great sadness to both of us that my wife and I felt forced to step back from this role and leave the country in 2020," Harry said in the statement, according to ITV. "The U.K. is my home. The U.K. is central to the heritage of my children and a place I want them to feel at home as much as where they live at the moment in the United States. That cannot happen if there is no possibility to keep them safe when they are on U.K. soil."
"I can't put my wife in danger like that, and given my experiences in life, I'm reluctant to unnecessarily put myself in harm's way too,” he continued.
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The Duke of Sussex's lawyers are arguing against a February 2020 decision by the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (RAVEC) to remove Harry's automatic right to U.K. police security. Although Prince Harry offered to cover the costs of security, the bid was rejected.
The Duke of Sussex's legal team has previously stated that he "does not feel safe" bringing his two children to the U.K.
"Of course, it should go without saying that he wants to come back: to see family and friends and to continue to support the charities that are so close to his heart," his lawyer Shaheed Fatima said in 2022 at the Royal Courts of Justice. "Most of all, this is, and always will be, his home."
Since their move to Meghan's home state of California in 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have brought their children to the U.K. just once: in 2022 when they attended Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee celebrations and marked Lili's first birthday at Frogmore Cottage, their former U.K. home in Windsor.
Audiences got a glimpse of the family there together there in the docuseries Harry & Meghan on Netflix, which premiered one year ago on Friday.
Harry & Meghan. The Netflix Global event continues December 15. pic.twitter.com/4PNOThV9fM
— Netflix (@netflix) December 12, 2022
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