Prince Harry has withdrawn his libel claim against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Associated Newspapers, just weeks before it was due to go to trial. The dramatic development comes after a judge ruled that parts of Harry’s claim were “irrelevant” or “unnecessary.”
Background of the Case
The case centered around an article published by the Mail on Sunday in February 2022 about Harry’s legal battle with the Home Office over his security arrangements when visiting the UK.
Harry sued for libel over allegations he had tried to keep parts of his legal fight with the Home Office over police protection secret. He also claimed the paper deliberately omitted parts of a letter from his team to create a false narrative, and questioned whether he had offered to pay some of the costs himself.
Damaging Pretrial Ruling
However, at a preliminary hearing earlier this month, Judge Mr Justice Nicklin ruled in favor of Associated Newspapers on several key issues.
- Said allegations that Harry had “lied” about offering to pay for police protection were not defamatory
- Ruled that parts of Harry’s statement were “irrelevant” or “unnecessary” for deciding libel
- Said the paper’s decision to omit parts of a letter was not dishonest or manipulative
This undermined significant portions of Harry’s libel claim.
Harry Withdraws Claim on Eve of Defence Filing Deadline
On Thursday, January 19th 2023 – the day Associated Newspapers was due to file its defence in the case – Harry’s lawyers filed a notice at the High Court withdrawing large parts of his claim.
A spokesperson for Harry said he had decided to cut his losses, rather than risk further damaging disclosures and further legal costs:
“The Duke has accepted that certain aspects of his case have been struck out (…) rather than risk further public intrusion into very private matters, including ultimately the care of his young children, the Duke has reluctantly agreed to withdraw from this aspect of the case.”
Implications of Harry’s U-Turn
|Harry likely faces a legal bill running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. He may also have to pay some of the Mail’s costs. This is a blow to his finances.
|His withdrawal following the ruling weakens his ability to bring other media claims in UK courts. It indicates UK judges take a strict view on privacy intrusion versus free speech.
|Backing down after previously vowing to take the case “all the way” damages his credibility in standing up to the tabloid press. It may encourage further negative coverage.
|The affair has likely worsened his relations with King Charles and the Palace, who want to avoid drawn-out public legal battles. They will see it as an own goal.
What Happens Next
It is unclear whether Harry will revive his complaint to the press regulator IPSO, which he lodged alongside his libel claim in 2022.
He could also appeal the initial ruling to try and overturn parts of it. However, legal experts view this as unlikely given the strength of the original judgment against him.
In the meantime, Harry still has a second outstanding libel case against the publisher of the Sun newspaper, over a February 2022 article claiming he had “snubbed” the Royal Marines since stepping down as Captain General.
This case will be closely watched to see if Harry continues to pursue media lawsuits against UK outlets despite this week’s defeat.
The dramatic withdrawal is a blow to Harry’s battle against the British tabloid press, which he has railed against for years over alleged fabrications and privacy invasions.
It comes amid speculation over his upcoming memoir and Netflix documentary. If Harry takes aim at the Royal Family in either project, this defeated libel claim may weaken perception he has the “higher moral ground” in the ongoing rift with the Palace.
Ultimately, it casts further doubt on the Sussexes future royal role and reconciliation hopes with King Charles. This ugly legal affair has likely only added to tensions after the couple’s exit from duties. For now, the Atlantic divide separating the Sussexes in California and the Royal Family back in Britain appears wider than ever.
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