The High Court judge agreed with this interpretation, writing that the story could lead readers to believe that Harry had purposefully tried to bamboozle the public about the truth of his legal proceedings against the government.
“It may be possible to ‘spin’ facts in a way that does not mislead, but the allegation being made in the article was very much that the object was to mislead the public,” the judge wrote. “That supplies the necessary element to make the meanings defamatory at common law.”
Nicklin also determined that the story’s description of how Harry and his lawyers had attempted to keep his effort to secure police protection from the Home Office confidential met the threshold for defamation.
The “natural and ordinary” meaning of the Mail on Sunday article, Nicklin wrote, was that Harry “had initially sought confidentiality restrictions that were far-reaching and unjustifiably wide and were rightly challenged by the Home Office on the grounds of transparency and open justice.”
The High Court justice wrote that “the message that comes across clearly, in the headlines and [specific] paragraphs” of the Mail on Sunday story met the common law requirements for defamation.
Throughout the judgment, Nicklin emphasized that his decision was “very much the first phase in a libel claim.”
“The next step will be for the defendant to file a defense to the claim. It will be a matter for determination later in the proceedings whether the claim succeeds or fails, and on what basis,” Nicklin wrote.