The article, which still appears on the newspaper’s website, was published in February under the headline: “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal battle with the government over police bodyguards a secret… then just minutes after how the story came out – his PR machine tried to give the dispute a positive color.
In a written statement at a preliminary hearing last month, Duke’s lawyers argued that the article falsely suggested that Harry “lied” and “wrongfully and cynically attempted to manipulate and mislead public opinion,” PA Media reported. Lawyers for the ANL dismissed the claims and stated that “there is no hint of inappropriateness on any reasonable reading of the article.”
At the preliminary hearing, Judge Matthew Nicklin was asked to determine the “natural and customary” meaning of the article and to consider whether it was libelous.
On Friday, a judge ruled that parts of the article were defamatory. This ruling is only the first stage of the case, and the publisher is now expected to defend itself.
Nicklin noted that the article would lead readers to believe that Prince Harry “was responsible for trying to mislead and confuse the public about the true position, which was ironic given that he now played a public role in the fight against ‘disinformation'” “.
In his decision, Nicklin said the reader of the article would think that the Duke of Sussex “was responsible for public statements made on his behalf claiming he was willing to pay for police protection in the UK and that his legal action was for the government’s refusal to allow him to do so, whereas the true position, as shown in the documents filed during the trial, was that he made an offer to pay only after the proceedings had begun.”
“It may be possible to spin the facts in a way that is not misleading, but the contention made in the article was largely that the intent was to mislead the public,” Nicklin added. “It provides the necessary element to make the meanings defamatory at common law.”
Turning to what comes next, Nicklin said: “The defendant’s next step will be to file a defense against the claim … Later in the proceedings, it will be decided whether the claim will be granted or dismissed, and if so, on what basis.”
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