View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Media Law
January 19, 2024

Prince Harry drops libel action versus Mail On Sunday over bodyguards story

Harry failed last month in a bid to stop the case from going to trial.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Prince Harry has dropped his libel case against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online.

Harry’s lawyers filed a notice of discontinuance at the High Court on Friday morning. Until then, a three-day trial was expected to take place at some point between 17 May and 31 July.

Harry’s case has been ongoing for almost two years after he objected to a February 2022 article about his legal battle against the Home Office.

It was headlined: “Revealed: How Harry tried to keep his legal fight over bodyguards secret.”

Meanwhile, Harry still has ongoing legal actions against the Mail publisher and The Sun which are expected to proceed to trial alleging illegal newsgathering at the titles.

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Why Prince Harry sued Mail on Sunday publisher

Harry’s lawyers claimed the bodyguards story “purported to reveal, in sensational terms” that information from court documents “contradicted public statements he had previously made about his willingness to pay for police protection for himself and his family whilst in the UK”.

Content from our partners
Publishing on the open web is broken, how generative AI could help fix it
Impress: Regulation, arbitration and complaints resolution
Papermule: Workflow automation for publishers

A High Court judge ruled in July of that year that parts of the article carried a defamatory meaning, in part because it could have been read as alleging Harry “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’”.

Mr Justice Nicklin also said a reader would think Harry “was responsible for public statements, issued on his behalf, which claimed that he was willing to pay for police protection in the UK, 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”.

Mail publisher Associated Newspapers subsequently filed its defence of honest opinion, saying Mail on Sunday assistant editor Kate Mansey approached the points in the piece as an “honest commentator”. It also argued the article had not caused serious harm to Harry’s reputation.

Harry failed to have Associated’s defence struck out before trial last year after his lawyers attempted to argue it was not strong enough to have a chance of winning at trial.

Mr Justice Nicklin said in December it was “not fanciful” that Associated Newspapers might be successful at trial in demonstrating that the public statements issued on Harry’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 own security”.

It also said there was a “real prospect” the publisher could succeed in showing “an honest person could have held the opinion that [Harry] was responsible for attempting to mislead and confuse the public as to the true position (and that this was ironic given that he now held a public role in tackling ‘misinformation’)”.

Harry was ordered to pay £48,447 towards the publisher’s legal bills as a result, according to the publisher.

Mail Online characterised Harry’s decision as admitting defeat and abandoning his case. It said Harry would now likely have to pay the newspaper’s costs of £250,000 as well as his own legal fees, coming to a total of more than £750,000.

Prince Harry’s focus now on Home Office case not ‘Mail’s false claims’

A spokesperson for the Sussexes said the duke was focusing instead on the safety of his family and his legal case against the Home Office over security arrangements for himself, his wife and children when they are in the UK.

“As is the nature with legal proceedings, years have lapsed since this complaint was first filed,” the spokesperson said.

“In the time since, the main hearing relating to the duke’s Judicial Review has taken place and we are awaiting the final decision as to whether RAVEC [Royal and VIP Executive Committee] acted lawfully with regard to his security.

“His focus remains there, and on the safety of his family, rather than these legal proceedings that give a continued platform to the Mail’s false claims all those years ago.”

Harry received two payouts from Associated Newspapers not long before launching this action in 2022.

He accepted an apology and substantial damages from the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online on 1 February 2022 over “baseless, false and defamatory” allegations he snubbed the Royal Marines after stepping down as a senior royal.

The Mail on Sunday lost its privacy case versus his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, agreeing to pay her £1 in damages for breach of privacy plus an undisclosed sum for breach of copyright after publishing a letter she wrote to her father. The paper was also left with a seven-figure costs bill and ordered to issue a front-page apology.

Topics in this article : , ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network