Prince Harry leaves the Royal Courts of Justice after the final day of evidence in his libel case against Mirror Group Newspapers over alleged phone hacking in London on June 7. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 8 (UPI) -- A British High Court judge Friday ruled against Prince Harry's effort to deny the Mail on Sunday publisher from using an "honest opinion" defense in his libel suit.
Harry sued Associated Newspapers over a 2022 news article involving his British security arrangement. The prince said the report falsely suggested he had "lied" and "cynically" tried to manipulate public opinion.
But High Court Judge Matthew Nicklin ruled that the Mail on Sunday had a real prospect of success if the case moved forward.
"Overall, it is not fanciful that the defendant will be successful, at trial, in demonstrating that the public statements issued on the claimant's behalf sought to promote the JR (judicial review) claim as his battle against the government's (perverse) decision to refuse to allow him to pay for his security," Nicklin said.
"There is a real prospect that the defendant will succeed in demonstrating that this was a misleading description of the issues in the JR claim, arguably promoted because it was hoped to show the claimant's JR claim in a positive light, whereas a portrayal of the JR claim as the claimant trying to force the government to reinstate his (taxpayer-funded) state security risked his appearing in a negative light."
Under British law, a publisher can use the honest opinion defense, which gives protection to individuals or organizations from being held liable for defamation in cases where statements are made as opinions rather than false statements of fact.
The case is expected to go to trial next year. Friday's decision comes on the heels of Harry's High Court hearing, in which he claimed to have been treated unfairly over downgraded security concerns.
The hearing, which played out this week, centers on publicly funded protection for the prince when he returns home to London. The Home Office said it downgraded Harry's protection after he stepped down from official royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020.