Prince Harry Slammed by Judge over Tabloid Criticisms, Ordered to Pay Costs

Prince Harry has been slammed by a judge for "unduly tendentious" criticisms of a tabloid he sued for libel—and has been ordered to pay some costs, Newsweek can reveal.

The Duke of Sussex was accused of turning his back on the Royal Marines following his departure from royal life, in a Mail on Sunday article.

The newspaper claimed he had not been in contact with the commandos but has since printed an apology conceding he had reached out to a number of personel "in a private capacity."

The case was settled last year, with the publisher paying damages, and a lawyer for the prince was given permission to make a court statement declaring the article false this morning.

However, court documents show the original draft statement was altered to remove or change a number of the prince's criticisms.

The Mail on Sunday is the same newspaper wife Meghan Markle is suing for publishing extracts of a private letter she sent her father.

Judge Matthew Nicklin wrote in a court filing seen by Newsweek: "[Prince Harry's lawyer's] original draft statement in open court was unduly tendentious and it included criticisms of the [Mail on Sunday] which have, by agreement, now been removed or amended."

Prince Harry at Invictus Games in Sydney
Prince Harry arrives for the Invictus Games Cycling at the Royal Botanical Gardens on October 21, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. The prince was paid damages by the Mail on Sunday which he donated to the Invictus Games Foundation. Ryan Pierse/Getty

The judge also said the prince's lawyers had asked the Mail on Sunday to pay "manifestly disproportionate" legal costs of £35,000 ($48,000).

Instead, Matthew Nicklin ordered the newspaper to pay just £2,500 costs in relation to the lawsuit.

The duke has himself been ordered to pay a portion of the tabloid's fees, though only in relation to the argument over what costs should be paid.

The Mail on Sunday also paid Prince Harry what his lawyer described as "substantial damages," which the duke donated to the Invictus Games Foundation.

The judge's order read: "[Prince Harry's] solicitors' costs for the application for the unilateral statement in open court—just short of £35,000—are manifestly disproportionate.

"No litigant of ordinary means would reasonably consider spending such a sum on this exercise.

"The agreement of a statement in open court in this case (that respected the proper purposes of a statement in open court) should have been a straightforward exercise and achieved at modest cost."

The judge's ruling said statements like the one the prince's lawyer made "can serve a valuable function in publicising the claimant's vindication" after the case has been settled out of court.

However, Nicklin also stressed that "the court will not permit them to be misused" and added that a "claimant cannot seek to use a statement in open court as a platform for collateral attacks on the defendant."

It is not known what criticisms were removed from today's statement, read by the prince's lawyer Jenny Afia.

However, when he first filed the claim, Harry's lawyers argued the Mail on Sunday's story would have left the forces community "more susceptible to suicide."

That argument was not mentioned by Afia when she addressed the court today.

In the original court filing, Harry's lawyers wrote: "[Prince Harry] has, in particular, used his reputation to support and encourage current and former military personnel to seek help for mental health problems.

"The publications complained of will diminish [Prince Harry's] credibility in the eyes of such personnel and therefore make them less likely to seek the help being offered.

"[Prince Harry] reasonably fears that this will in turn have devastating effects upon such individuals, including leaving them more susceptible to suicide."

Today, Afia told the court the Mail on Sunday's story in October was "baseless, false and defamatory."

She said: "All of these allegations are false, as the Mail on Sunday and the MailOnline have now accepted, albeit after considerable damage was already done.

"The truth is that the Duke of Sussex has made repeated and concerted efforts to continue to support the Royal Marines and other members of the Armed Forces and their families over the past year, even though he was required to step back from his formal military roles in the 'year of transition' during which he must take a reduced role as a member of the Royal Family."