Prince Harry and Meghan Markle could be dragged into “lifetime” media lawsuits after abandoning Queen Elizabeth II’s “never complain, never explain” policy, lawyer said news week†
The Duke of Sussex is suing The mail on Sunday for libel over an article accusing him of misleading the public over an offer to pay for his police protection.
The tabloid story was about another lawsuit from Harry, in which he sued the British government for removing his security details, turning the defamation lawsuit into a lawsuit over a lawsuit.
And it is the eighth lawsuit that Harry and Meghan have filed since September 2019, when they tried to take the British media to justice by simultaneously indicting three of the country’s largest newspaper groups.
Amber Melville-Brown, Global Head of Reputation at international law firm Withers, said: news week Harry and Meghan have abandoned the traditional approach of the royal family to present themselves as the above commentary on speculation and gossip.
She said: “Meghan and Harry are engaged in what will inevitably be a lifelong battle with British tabloids; they will be no strangers to scrutiny, criticism and sometimes serious accusations; and if they complain, explain them and each time bring a lawsuit. Critical scrutiny and serious allegations are sent their way, they will be very busy.”
She added: “For the royal family, the beauty of the ‘never complain, never explain’ philosophy is consistency.
“It is a mantra for all seasons, a response to all eventualities, making it unequivocally clear in the face of harmful accusations, gossip or rumors that there will be no statement or commitment.
“By deviating from that strategy, Prince Harry has put himself in a position where he needs to, or at least feels he needs to complain about accusations and explain himself, where otherwise silence and a royal shrug would have been called for.”
Harry’s current legal battle is with an old rival, the same British tabloid who famously sued Meghan over the private letter she sent her father.
This time, The mail on Sunday suggested he enlisted his PR team to mislead the public about when he first offered to pay the fees to continue with his Metropolitan Police bodyguards.
An earlier lawsuit by Harry’s team stated: “It must have been obvious to… [The Mail on Sunday] that by giving these serious accusations such massive publicity in the wording and manner it did, leading to inevitable repetition and the nourishing frenzy of hostile remarks, it could only cause [Prince Harry’s] cause significant damage to reputation and cause great suffering and pain to [Prince Harry]as has been the case.”
However, he has already suffered a setback after requesting an early ruling on a key part of his case and was rejected by the judge.
The first major showdown between the parties will take place in June, following the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and will see if the case passes some key tests needed to be successful.
Harry asked the court to determine whether the newspaper’s allegations have caused “serious damage” to his reputation, as required in defamation cases in the UK.
Judge Matthew Nicklin stated in a court filing dated April 26 and seen by: news week: “I have refused to lead a lawsuit on the matter of serious harm. I appreciate that” [Prince Harry’s] case is one (at this stage) based solely on inference, but ultimately this is a matter of fact.”
Melville-Brown said, “Sitting at a high-stakes, high-profile game of slander poker is not for the faint of heart.
“It’s never good psychologically to lose an early application in a lawsuit, and here Harry gambled first hand and lost.
“As with poker, he’ll get another chance to prove that the relevant test has been passed. But until then, he’ll probably want to play his dispute strategy cards close to his chest.”
She suggested that the serious damages application may have been a “show of strength” by Harry’s team to show they had full confidence in his case and added that it would normally be the defendant, the newspaper, of such an application.
Mark Stephens, of British law firm Howard Kennedy, previously said: news week he believed this could be an indication that Harry’s team fears their case could fail the test for serious damage and so wanted to make a ruling sooner rather than later.
He said: “What I could read in there is that Harry’s lawyers are concerned that they will not pass the substantial damage test and so they want it early. It is unwise to take a case that is not clear .”
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