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Prince Harry sues tabloid for defamation over security story

LONDON — Prince Harry’s lawyers asked a judge on Friday to rule that a tabloid defamed the British royal with an article about his quest for police protection while visiting the UK with his family.

Harry is suing the publisher of Mail on Sunday Associated Newspapers Ltd. for an article alleging he tried to stifle his separate legal challenge over the UK government’s refusal to let him pay for police security.

At a hearing in the High Court in London, Harry’s lead solicitor asked Judge Matthew Nickin to either strike out the publisher’s defense or give summary judgment, which would be a decision in favor of the prince without go through the trial.

Lawyer Justin Rushbrooke said the facts did not support the publisher’s “pleading defense on the merits” that the article expressed an “honest opinion”.

He said the article was “fundamentally inaccurate”.

Harry wasn’t in court for the hearing. The Prince, also known as the Duke of Sussex, and his wife, Meghan, lost their state-funded British police protection when they stepped down as senior royals and moved to North America in 2020.

Harry’s lawyers said the prince was reluctant to bring the couple’s children – Prince Archie, who is almost 4, and Princess Lilibet, almost 2 – to his homeland because it is unsafe.

The 38-year-old prince wants to personally pay for police security when he comes to Britain, but the government has said that is not possible. Last year, a judge cleared Harry to sue the government. This case has not yet been judged.

Harry sued the Associated Newspapers for a February 2022 Mail on Sunday article titled “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight with the government secret over police bodyguards… then – just minutes later as the story broke – his PR machine tried to put a positive spin on the dispute.

Harry claims the newspaper defamed him when it suggested the prince had lied in his first public statements about the lawsuit against the government.

In July, Nicklin ruled the article to be defamatory, allowing the case to continue. The judge has yet to consider issues such as the accuracy of the story or the public interest.

The publisher’s lawyer, Andrew Caldecott, said Harry’s lawyers’ argument amounted to “bridging the newspaper’s right to comment”.

He said it was vital that the media speak truth to power, and “giving opinion to power is just as important, if not more so”, as long as the opinion is based on facts.

At the end of the day-long hearing, the judge said he would rule at a later date.

Harry, the youngest son of King Charles III, and former actress Meghan Markle married at Windsor Castle in 2018 but stepped down as senior royals in 2020, citing what they described as the intrusions intolerable and racist attitudes of the British media.

Harry’s fury with the British press can be seen in his memoir ‘Spare’, published in January. He blames an overly aggressive press for the 1997 death of his mother, Princess Diana, and also accuses the media of harassing Meghan.

The couple have not been shy about using the UK courts to fight back against what they see as media mistreatment. In December 2021, Meghan won a privacy breach case against Associated Newspapers following the Mail’s publication on Sunday of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.

Harry is also among celebrities suing Associated Newspapers over alleged phone hacking, and he has launched a separate hacking lawsuit against the publisher of another tabloid, the Mirror. ___

Follow AP’s coverage of Prince Harry at https://apnews.com/hub/prince-harry

ABC News

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