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LONDON: Prince Harry's lawyers told a London court on Friday that publisher Associated Newspapers had no viable defence to his libel claim over an article about his security arrangements, as the British royal seeks to win his case without a trial.

Harry, King Charles' younger son, sued Associated Newspapers last year over an article in its Mail on Sunday newspaper that alleged he offered to pay for police protection only after bringing a separate legal fight against Britain’s government.

Prince Harry's memoir sheds light on bust-ups among British royals

The article stated Harry, 38, had tried to keep secret details of his legal fight with the government over his publicly-funded protection - which was withdrawn after he stepped back from royal duties in 2020 - and that his aides had then tried to put a positive spin on it.

London's High Court ruled in July that the Mail report, which accused Harry of attempting to mislead the public, was defamatory - paving the way for Harry to take the case forward against one of Britain’s biggest media publishers.

Harry's lawyers told Judge Matthew Nicklin on Friday that Harry had offered to pay for police protection at a crisis meeting with the late Queen Elizabeth, his father and brother Prince William at the royal Sandringham estate in January 2020.

Justin Rushbrooke said Associated Newspapers had no factual basis for its defence, and asked the court to give a summary judgment, a ruling in Harry's favour without the need for a trial.

However, Associated Newspapers' lawyers said it would rely on a strong argument of "honest opinion", and that Harry's bid to win the case without a trial was "totally without merit".

Prince Harry says memoirs written to combat 'spin and distortion'

Andrew Caldecott, the publisher's lawyer, also argued in court papers that the article had not caused serious harm to Harry's reputation, a requirement under English libel law.

Two years ago, Harry's American wife Meghan won a summary judgment in her privacy case against the Mail on Sunday for printing parts of a handwritten letter she had sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.

Media intrusion since their 2018 marriage was part of the reason the couple cited for stepping back from royal duties and moving to California to forge new lives and careers.

In his memoir 'Spare' and in the couple's six-part Netflix documentary series, Harry focused heavily on the media's behaviour, and he has embarked on a series of legal battles with the tabloid press.

Later this month, there is due to be a hearing in another case he has brought alongside singer Elton John and others against Associated Newspapers, which will try to throw out allegations of phone-tapping and other privacy breaches.

In May, his lawsuit against the Daily Mirror newspaper over accusations of phone-hacking will go to trial, with Harry likely to give evidence.

He is also suing News Group Newspapers, the publisher of the now-defunct News of the World and The Sun, also for alleged phone-hacking.


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