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Prince Harry has won the initial phase of a defamation lawsuit relating to an article published in the U.K.'s Mail on Sunday.
In February, lawyers acting on behalf of the Duke of Sussex filed a complaint against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over a story in which alleged he was trying to keep his legal battle against over his security arrangements in Britain secret from the public.
Harry's lawyers claimed the article falsely suggested he had "lied" and questioned his "willingness" to pay for security from the Home Office.
On Friday, Mr Justice Nicklin released his ruling in which he decided that parts of the article were defamatory.
Of aspects of the story, the judge said readers may believe the 37-year-old British royal was "responsible" for "trying to mislead and confuse the public as to the true position, which was ironic given that he now held a public role in tackling 'misinformation'".
"(The reader may think Harry) was responsible for public statements, issued on his behalf, which claimed that he was willing to pay for police protection in the U.K., and that his legal challenge was to the government's refusal to permit him to do so, whereas the true position, as revealed in documents filed in the legal proceedings, was that he had only made the offer to pay after the proceedings had commenced," the judgment reads, according to ITV News. "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... That supplies the necessary element to make the meanings defamatory at common law."
Lawyers for ANL have not yet responded to the judgment. As the ruling is the first part of the libel claim, the legal team has the option to file a defence.
Harry, who lost his rights to police protection when he stepped back as a working royal in early 2020, is yet to release a statement.