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Prince Harry ordered to pay £48,000 to Mail on Sunday

The Duke of Sussex leaving the High Court
Prince Harry is suing Associated Newspapers Limited over an article concerning his legal battle with the Home Office about his security - Alberto Pezzali/AP

The Duke of Sussex has been ordered to pay the Mail on Sunday more than £48,000 after failing to strike out part of its defence in a libel claim.

Prince Harry is suing Associated Newspapers Limited over an article concerning his legal battle with the Home Office about his security.

Associated has argued that the article, which claimed the Duke’s PR team had “tried to put positive spin on the dispute”, expressed an “honest opinion” and did not cause the royal “serious harm”.

On Friday, the Duke lost an attempt to have the newspaper group’s “honest opinion” defence thrown out.

Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that the publisher had a “real prospect of demonstrating that an honest person could have held the view” that a statement released by the Duke’s representatives was “a masterclass in the art of spinning”.

The judge has now ruled that he must pay the £48,447 legal costs incurred by Associated in relation to that “summary judgment application” by Dec 29.

The trial, which is expected to take three to four days, must be heard between May 17 and July 31 next year, he said.

Legal fight

The Mail on Sunday story, published in February 2022, said the Duke had tried to keep “secret” parts of his legal fight with the Home Office over his security and had tried to “spin” the dispute in his favour by claiming he had offered to pay for protection himself.

Prince Harry claims he made an offer to pay for, or contribute towards, security costs for himself and his family when they are in the UK at a meeting at Sandringham in January 2020, at which Elizabeth II and King Charles were present.

He then reiterated his offer at a meeting with Sir Mark Sedwill, then cabinet secretary and UK home security adviser, the following month.

The Duke has also said the story caused him “substantial hurt, embarrassment and distress which is continuing”.

Associated has argued that his offer to pay was not made or communicated to the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures.

In July 2022, the Duke won the first stage of the claim after a judge found the article was defamatory.

Mr Justice Nicklin said: “It may be possible to ‘spin’ facts in a way that does not mislead, but the allegation being made in the article was very much that the object was to mislead the public.”

Explaining his decision, the judge said: “It is not fanciful that the defendant will be successful, at trial, in demonstrating that the public statements issued… sought to promote the… claim as his battle against the Government’s (perverse) decision to refuse to allow him to pay for his own security.

“I anticipate that, at trial, the defendant may well submit that this was a masterclass in the art of ‘spinning’.”

The Duke is pursuing four legal claims against various media organisations as well as the challenge against the Home Office over his personal security, which was heard by Mr Justice Lane last week.

It has not all been plain sailing for the royal, who faces the prospect of significant legal bills by the time all of the litigation is complete.

At an earlier hearing related to his libel claim against Associated, a judge set the amount recoverable by Harry in the event that he wins at £341,739 – almost half the £631,035 the Duke has sought.

Legal costs of £1.2m

Judge Barbara Fontaine concluded that the Duke’s estimated total legal costs of about £1.2 million were “extremely high”.

In November, the Duke was blocked from using leaked confidential documents in a separate privacy battle he has brought against Associated alongside others including Sir Elton John and Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, the mother of Stephen Lawrence.

Earlier this year, the Duke was said to face a £500,000 legal bill after being denied the right to bring a second legal challenge against the Government based on his offer to pay for his own police protection.

In a previous case brought against Associated, the Duke was chastised by a judge for using the court as a “platform for collateral attacks”.

He was ordered to water down an “unduly tendentious” attack on the media after making a rare personal statement in the High Court in which he took aim at the Mail on Sunday over a report that wrongly claimed he turned his back on the Royal Marines when he moved to the United States.

Mr Justice Nicklin concluded that the newspaper should pay £2,500 towards the Duke’s costs, meaning that the outstanding £32,500 bill had to be met by him personally.