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Prince Harry loses bid to have publisher’s libel defence thrown out

file photo: britain's prince harry, duke of sussex's lawsuit against a newspaper group, in london
Prince Harry sued publisher Associated Newspapers last year over a 2022 article which alleged he only offered to pay for police protection after bringing a separate legal fight against the British government

Prince Harry lost his attempt to have the Mail on Sunday newspaper’s defence to his libel lawsuit thrown out, meaning the British royal is likely to give evidence again at London’s High Court next year.

Harry, King Charles’ younger son, sued publisher Associated Newspapers last year over a 2022 article which alleged he only offered to pay for police protection after bringing a separate legal fight against the British government.

The report also accused Harry, 39, of attempting to mislead the public about his willingness to pay for the policing, which was withdrawn after he stepped back from royal duties in 2020.

Harry applied to have Associated’s defence thrown out, with his lawyers arguing in March that Harry first offered to pay for police protection at a crisis meeting with the late Queen Elizabeth, his father and brother Prince William at the royal Sandringham estate in January 2020.

Associated’s lawyers, however, said Harry had admitted he did not offer to pay for police protection in correspondence with the British government before starting legal action.

They also argued that a statement issued by Harry’s representatives before Associated’s article was published had falsely claimed the government had refused Harry’s offer to pay for police protection.

Judge Matthew Nicklin said in a written ruling that Harry’s case should go to trial, which is likely to take place in 2024, with the royal expected to face cross-examination again after giving evidence in a separate lawsuit earlier this year.

Associated declined to comment and Harry’s representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Friday’s decision comes a day after Harry’s legal challenge over his police protection concluded. A ruling in that case is not expected until a later date.

MULTIPLE LAWSUITS

Despite stepping away from royal duties, Harry and his wife Meghan are rarely out of the headlines in Britain, most recently in the resurrection of a royal race row sparked by their interview with U.S. TV host Oprah Winfrey in 2021.

The Dutch translation of a book by journalist Omid Scobie, regarded as being sympathetic to the couple, identified King Charles and William’s wife Kate, the Princess of Wales, as the two royals who had held “conversations” before he was born about how dark their son Archie’s skin might be.

The book’s publisher has said the naming was an error and Scobie has denied producing a version with the names included. Neither Buckingham Palace nor Harry and Meghan have commented.

The row prompted one lawmaker to say parliament should consider taking action to strip the Sussexes of their titles, while they have faced yet more scorn from newspapers, many of which are openly hostile to the couple.

That is partly because Harry and Meghan have launched a series of lawsuits against British tabloids, accusing them of intrusive and unlawful behaviour.

Harry appeared in court in June to give evidence against another publisher, Mirror Group Newspapers, as part of a lawsuit he and 100 others have brought accusing its titles of phone-hacking and other unlawful information gathering.

Meghan successfully sued the Mail on Sunday for printing parts of a handwritten letter she wrote to her estranged father, while Harry and other high-profile figures are suing Associated over allegations of phone-tapping and other privacy breaches.

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