A judge’s ruling in the Duke of Sussex’s libel claim against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the latest update in his multiple High Court legal battles with newspaper publishers.
Harry, 39, is currently involved in five cases at the High Court, including claims brought against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) and News Group Newspapers (NGN) over allegations of unlawful information-gathering.
The duke’s civil litigation also features a challenge against the Home Office over the provision of his personal security and the linked libel claim against ANL.
Here is an overview of the current status of his cases:
– Unlawful information-gathering allegations against ANL
Harry is one of seven high-profile people, including Sir Elton John and Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, bringing legal action against the publisher of the Daily Mail over allegations it carried out or commissioned unlawful information-gathering.
The firmly-denied allegations against ANL include the hiring of private investigators to place listening devices inside cars, the “blagging” of private records and the accessing and recording of private phone conversations.
At a preliminary hearing in March, the publisher asked a judge to rule in its favour without a trial, arguing the legal challenges against it were brought “far too late”.
The duke made a surprise appearance at the Royal Courts of Justice in London for the March proceedings, where his lawyers argued those bringing legal action were “thrown off the scent” and not aware of being targeted, having believed “categorical denials” from ANL over any involvement in unlawful activity.
Mr Justice Nicklin ruled in November that the publisher had failed to deliver a “knockout blow” to the early stage legal challenges, allowing them to continue.
The duke’s lawyers are planning to ask ministers for permission to use confidential documents from the Leveson Inquiry into press standards after the judge ruled they could not be used while restrictions were in place.
A further case management hearing may be held in early March next year.
– Allegations of unlawful information-gathering at NGN
Harry and actor High Grant are suing NGN, publisher of The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World, over alleged unlawful information-gathering.
The duke alleges he was targeted by journalists and private investigators working for the papers.
At a preliminary hearing in April, the publisher asked a judge to throw out his and Mr Grant’s claim, arguing they were brought too late.
Mr Justice Fancourt later ruled that Harry and the actor’s claims could go to trial, except for any allegations relating to phone hacking.
The judge also refused to allow the duke to rely on an alleged “secret agreement” between the royal family and senior executives working for media mogul Rupert Murdoch as part of his claim.
Harry’s lawyers had argued that NGN’s challenge to his claim was an attempt to go behind the alleged agreement, which they said had prevented him from bringing his case.
NGN, which denies any unlawful activity took place at The Sun, disputed such an agreement was in place.
Harry’s claim is set to go to trial in January 2025.
– Unlawful information-gathering claim against MGN
In a rare royal event, Harry entered a High Court witness box in the trial of his damages claim against the publisher of the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People.
The world’s media descended on a courtroom in London to see the duke give evidence across two days in his contested claim against MGN over allegations its journalists were linked to voicemail interception, securing information through deception and hiring private investigators for unlawful activities.
His case, alongside those of former Coronation Street actress Nikki Sanderson, comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman and actor Michael Turner, known professionally as Michael Le Vell, were considered as “test cases” at a seven-week trial held this summer.
MGN largely contested the claims and denied any of the articles complained of resulted from phone hacking while contending the vast majority did not arise from any other unlawful activity.
Mr Justice Fancourt will give his ruling over the case at a later date.
– Challenge against the Home Office over UK security arrangements
This week, the High Court heard Harry’s claim against the Home Office over security arrangements for himself and his family when they are in the UK.
The duke is challenging a February 2020 decision of the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec) – which falls under the remit of the department – after being told he would no longer be given the “same degree” of personal protective security when visiting.
Harry’s lawyers say he was “singled out” and treated “less favourably” in the decision, arguing a failure to carry out a risk analysis and fully consider the impact of a “successful attack” on him meant the approach to his protection was “unlawful and unfair”.
The court heard the duke believes his children cannot “feel at home” in the UK if it is “not possible to keep them safe” there.
The Home Office says Ravec was entitled to reach the decision it did, which is that Harry’s security arrangements will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Mr Justice Lane will give his ruling over the claim at a later date.
– Libel claim over Mail on Sunday article on Home Office legal battle
Harry is also suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over a February 2022 Mail on Sunday article about his legal fight with the Home Office.
The duke’s lawyers in his libel claim have said the articles “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”.
They allege the article was “an attack on his honesty and integrity”, and would undermine his charity work and efforts to tackle misinformation online.
ANL is contesting the claim, arguing the article expressed an “honest opinion” and did not cause “serious harm” to Harry’s reputation.
On Friday, Mr Justice Nicklin rejected the duke’s bid to strike out ANL’s “honest opinion” defence or grant judgment in his favour on it.
The judge concluded the publisher had a “real prospect” of successfully showing at a trial that previous Harry press statements provided a “misleading” description of his case against the Home Office.
A hearing dealing with the consequences of Mr Justice Nicklin’s decision may be held on Tuesday.