In their undeclared Forever War with certain quarters of the British press, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are enjoying yet more success against one particularly persistent adversary. On Friday, a judge in London’s High Court ruled in the Duke of Sussex’s favor that parts of a Mail on Sunday article were defamatory—less than a year after the same paper had to pay damages to Meghan Markle for breaching her copyright.
The latest case centered around an article published by the outlet regarding a separate lawsuit brought by Prince Harry against the British government over his security arrangements. Harry’s legal counsel said he was suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL)—which owns the Mail on Sunday—because the story had falsely suggested that he had “lied” and “cynically” attempted to influence public opinion about his case against the U.K. government. ANL said the article wasn’t defamatory.
The court, however, sided with Harry in its ruling. As per media law in England, the ruling is just the first stage of a libel claim; the newspaper can now file a defense if it wants to carry on fighting the case. “It will be a matter for determination later in the proceedings whether the claim succeeds or fails, and if so on what basis,” the judge, Mr Justice Nicklin, said.
At last month’s preliminary hearing, Harry said in a statement that the article had caused him “substantial hurt, embarrassment and distress.” Justin Rushbrooke, his lawyer, said the piece suggested Harry had “lied in his initial public statements” by claiming he’d always been prepared to pay for police protection while in the U.K. (Harry has lived with Meghan Markle in California since March 2src2src.) The article indicated that he’d only made the offer to pay “recently” after a visit to the U.K. in June 2src21.
Whether or not the Mail on Sunday will continue the fight remains to be seen, but they certainly have form for protracted legal battles. In August 2src18, ANL published five articles in print and online which included extracts of a private handwritten letter Meghan Markle had sent to her estranged father, Thomas. Lawyers for Meghan argued that the articles—published by the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline—had invaded her privacy and infringed her copyright. After a lengthy and turbulent legal fight, Meghan prevailed in December 2src21 with ANL running a 64-word story saying they’d lost the case in print and online.
“This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right,” Meghan said in a statement after the ruling. “While this win is precedent-setting, what matters most is that we are now collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel, and profits from the lies and pain that they create.”
The ruling in Harry’s favor against ANL came the day after the case revealed “significant tensions” between Harry and one of the Queen’s top aides.