Prince Harry, who is already a plaintiff in a phone-hacking lawsuit against British tabloids, filed a libel claim against Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, and MailOnline, on Wednesday.
It’s the same newspaper group that Harry’s wife, Duchess Meghan of Sussex, won undisclosed damages in a lawsuit last year claiming invasion of privacy and copyright infringement. Late Christmas Day 2021, The Mail on Sunday quietly issued a court-ordered mea culpa online under the generic headline “The Duchess of Sussex,” acknowledging her legal victory.
Harry is also one of the many celebrity plaintiffs in a case filed in 2019 against The Mirror and The Sun, claiming journalists of hacking his phone voicemail while he was just out of his teens. That lawsuit is still pending.
The details of this latest case were limited. Harry’s press office in California, where he and Meghan now live with their two children, Archie, 2, and Lilibet, 8 months, will only confirm the lawsuit was filed but not why.
Associated Newspapers also provided few details, stating simply that the case had been filed.
It could, however, have something to do with Harry’s legal battle over whether he and his family would be protected by British security while in the UK.
What’s at issue with Harry bringing his family to the U.K.?
Because he is no longer a working royal, British government officials claim he is not entitled to taxpayer-funded protection. Harry claims that the threat level against him and his family is still high, and he refuses to send his children to his homeland because it is not safe.
The memorial service for Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip, at Westminster Abbey on March 29 and the Platinum Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the monarchy in early June are among the upcoming return dates on Harry’s schedule.
According to court documents received by Mail on Sunday on Sunday, Harry requested a broad confidentiality order on documents and witness statements related to his case against the government in order to keep details of his legal battle to reinstate his police protection hidden from the public.
The Home Office, the enormous government agency in charge of immigration, drugs policy, crime, fire, counter-terrorism, police, and security affairs in the United Kingdom, is fighting for transparency, stating that Harry needs a good reason in the public interest to justify such secrecy.
A hearing on the security problem has been set for Friday.
Typically, royal security issues are kept top-secret: the palaces never discuss them, even off the record in broad strokes, on the assumption that the less said about them, the better.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as well as their children, are still royals, but Harry and Meghan have stepped down from their senior royal roles and are now based in Santa Barbara, California. As a result, when they departed the UK in 2020, it was decided that British taxpayers would not fund royal protection services in the United States; instead, they would pay for their own private security.
However, in the United Kingdom, private security would not have access to all government intelligence. So, if the Sussexes return to the United Kingdom for a visit, what will happen and who will pay is still up in the air.
Issues of Sussex payment for protective services in question
According to the Mail on Sunday, Harry’s “spin doctors” mislead journalists about Harry’s offer to pay for specialized protection in the United Kingdom while he is visiting, and the government still denied him.
“It led to inaccurate reports across the media, such as the BBC headline: ‘Prince Harry in a legal fight to pay for UK police protection,’ ” the paper said. “As documents lodged at the High Court last week show, no such offer to pay was made in the Prince’s initial ‘pre-action’ letters to the Home Office, suggesting he expected British taxpayers to cover it.
“The revelations are a crushing rebuttal to Harry’s initial public statement that implied he had always been willing to foot the bill.”
Harry and Meghan have won before
It wouldn’t be the first time Harry has questioned The Mail’s reporting. He won a libel action against The Mail on Sunday in February 2021, which apologized, published a correction, and paid damages after a piece that wrongly said Harry had “turned his back” on his prized military associations. Harry sued when the tabloid published allegations in October 2020 alleging that after standing down as a senior royal in 2020, he had ignored the Royal Marines.
In contrast to the initial report, which has since disappeared from the daily’s website, the paper’s correction was shot and buried on the website and in the paper. The outlet did not explain why their story was incorrect.
“We apologize to Prince Harry and have made a donation to (Harry’s) Invictus Games Foundation,” the correction concluded.
The jeers from the British media over Harry and Meghan’s multiple media-targeted lawsuits have been deafening at times, but the couple keeps winning against U.K. media and American paparazzi agencies.
Splash News and Picture Agency agreed not to photograph the Sussexes in December 2020 as part of a settlement with Meghan Markle, who filed a legal complaint in March over photos of her and Archie taken in a Canadian park in Vancouver Island.
The Sussexes sued another paparazzi firm in October 2020, forcing them to admit and apologize for secretly photographing their son Archie in their Los Angeles rental backyard, allegedly using drones. X17, one of the most well-known celebrity photo agencies, promised to destroy the photos and never do it again, as well as pay some of the couple’s legal fees.
“We apologize to The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their son for the distress we have caused. We were wrong to offer these photographs and commit to not doing so again,” according to a statement issued by X17 and obtained by USA TODAY.