Prince Harry has been ordered to pay the publisher of the Mail almost £50,000 after he lost the latest stage of a legal battle.
A High Court judge ordered the Duke of Sussex to pay legal costs incurred by The Mail on Sunday (TMOS), after Harry failed in a bid to have the case decided without a trial.
Mr Justice Nicklin said the legal costs would need to be assessed if the two sides could not agree to a sum, but said Harry should pay £48,447 ‘on account’ before the end of this year.
The duke, 39, is suing TMOS over an article which claimed his PR aides tried to ‘spin’ his dispute with the Home Office over its decision to downgrade his taxpayer-funded police protection.
He asked the High Court to rule that the newspaper could not use a legal defence of ‘honest opinion’, and for a judge to rule in his favour without a public trial.
But the judge ruled that Associated Newspapers – publisher of TMOS and the Daily Mail – had a ‘real prospect’ of demonstrating that statements issued on Harry’s behalf were misleading, and refused his requests.
Mr. Justice Nicklin said the newspapers had ‘a real prospect of succeeding in demonstrating also that an honest person could have held the opinion that the Claimant [the duke] was responsible for attempting to mislead and confuse the public as to the true position’.
In a written order released today, he said that a full libel trial would now be scheduled for next year.
The case centres on an article published in February 2022 about Harry’s legal action against the Home Office.
TMOS reported that Harry’s PR advisers had briefed journalists that he launched the legal action after he offered to pay for police protection for him and his family when they were in Britain, but that the offer was refused.
The article alleged that no such offer had been made to the Home Office nor the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures, known as Ravec, until later and that Harry’s ‘spin doctors’ had tried to influence coverage of the story.
It added that such conduct was ‘ironic given the prince now has a role with a Silicon Valley firm tackling “misinformation” online’.
Harry launched legal action for libel, claiming the article was ‘an attack on his honesty and integrity’ and could undermine his charity work and his efforts to tackle misinformation online.
TMOS contested the claim, and said its article expressed an honest opinion and did not cause ‘serious harm’ to his reputation.
In his ruling last week, Mr Justice Nicklin said the newspaper had ‘a real prospect’ of demonstrating that a Press statement and a background briefing given to selected journalists on Harry’s behalf were misleading.
A separate hearing was held at the High Court last week into Harry’s judicial review claim that the decision to downgrade his security was ‘unlawful and unfair’. A decision on that case is expected at a later date.