10 November 2023

What are the latest developments in the Duke of Sussex’s High Court cases?

10 November 2023

A High Court judge’s ruling that the Duke of Sussex can continue his legal challenge against the publisher of the Daily Mail is the latest development in his extensive litigation against newspaper publishers.

Harry had been involved in six legal battles at the High Court in recent months, including cases 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 has also included legal challenges against the Home Office linked to the provision of his personal security.

With the arrival on Friday of a judgment over the future of the duke’s unlawful information gathering 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 that 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 on Friday that the publisher had failed to deliver a “knockout blow” to the early stage legal challenges, allowing them to continue.

– 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.

But 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 that 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 that any of the articles complained of resulted from phone hacking, while contending that the vast majority did not arise from any other unlawful activity.

Mr Justice Fancourt is expected to give his ruling over the case at a later date.

– Challenge against the Home Office over UK security arrangements

In July last year, Harry secured a judge’s permission to pursue legal action 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 the security arrangements set out by Ravec, and their application when he visited the UK in June 2021, were invalid due to “procedural unfairness” because he was not given an opportunity to make “informed representations beforehand”.

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 Swift said part of Harry’s case could proceed, with a date for a full hearing yet to be set.

– Second case against Home Office in relation to UK security

In May, a High Court judge rejected Harry’s bid to bring a further legal challenge against the department over a Ravec decision that he should not be allowed to pay privately for his protective security.

The Home Office, which opposed Harry’s claim, said Ravec considered it was “not appropriate” for wealthy people to “buy” protective security, which might include armed officers, when it had decided that “the public interest does not warrant” someone receiving such protection on a publicly funded basis.

The duke’s legal team argued Ravec’s view, that allowing payment for protective security would be contrary to the public interest and undermine public confidence in the Metropolitan Police, could not be reconciled with rules which expressly permit charging for certain police services.

Mr Justice Chamberlain refused Harry permission to bring the second challenge on May 23.

– 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 story was published online and in the newspaper under the headline “Exclusive: How Prince Harry tried to keep his legal fight with the government over police bodyguards a secret … then – just minutes after the story broke – his PR machine tried to put a positive spin on the dispute”.

The duke’s lawyers in his libel claim have said the articles “purported to reveal, in sensational terms” that information from court documents filed by the duke “contradicted public statements he had previously made about his willingness to pay for police protection for himself and his family whilst in the UK”.

ANL is contesting the claim, arguing the article expressed an “honest opinion” and did not cause “serious harm” to Harry’s reputation.

At a preliminary hearing in March, the High Court heard the duke’s bid to strike out ANL’s “honest opinion” defence or grant judgment in his favour on it.

A ruling from Mr Justice Nicklin is expected this year.

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