Prince Harry was told by Mr Justice Nicklin the costs of his lawyers for the application for reading the statement in court on Monday was “manifestly disproportionate”. In a strongly-worded costs order, the High Court judge said: “The Claimant’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 Claimant should not have issued the Application Notice before attempting to negotiate agreement to a statement in open court in suitable terms.
“The witness statement that accompanied the statement was unnecessary.
“The Defendant has correctly accepted that it is liable for the Claimant’s reasonable costs of the application for the statement in open court in this case.
“I have summarily assessed those costs.
“The Defendant has been successful on the disputed issues of costs and the Claimant must pay the Defendants’ costs of the costs dispute.”
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As a result, Associated Newspapers was required to pay £2,500 in fees related to the lawsuit, while the Duke himself was told to pay the “costs of the argument as to costs”.
In the costs order, Mr Justice Nicklin also told Prince Harry the draft statement presented prior to the hearing “was unduly tendentious”.
He said: “The Claimant’s original draft statement in open court was unduly tendentious and it included criticisms of the Defendant which have, by agreement, now been removed or amended.
“It could have achieved proper vindication – and generated less by way of dispute – if it had been proposed in terms that properly reflected the purposes of a statement in open court.”
Prince Harry sued Associated Newspaper in November last year after the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline published on October 25 two articles accusing the Duke of snubbing the Royal Marines since March 2020, when he stepped down as senior royal.
The two publications issued apologies online and on paper in late December, in which they said the Duke has in fact reached out to a number of military personnel in “private capacity” over the past months.
Associated Newspapers also paid damages to the Duke.
During the remote High Court hearing on Monday morning, Prince Harry’s legal representative read a 1,100-word personal statement by the Duke of Sussex.
With this statement, the Duke said in no uncertain terms his commitment to the Royal Marines and the British Armed Forces remains unchanged, even after his decision to step back as senior royal.
Lawyer Jenny Afia said: “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.”
The Duke of Sussex, who has served in the Army for 10 years, “has maintained active links with those forces ever since and will continue to do so in the future”, Ms Afia added.
Reading the statement, she continued: “The Duke’s commitment to the men and women who have put their lives on the line, to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and to military families, is steadfast and unquestionable.”
Prince Harry, her lawyer added, is donating the damages from this case to the Invictus Games Foundation.
After the hearing, a spokesman for the Duke of Sussex said: “Today, the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline publicly admitted in open court that they pushed a completely false and defamatory story.
“And they’ve apologised for questioning the Duke of Sussex’s commitment to the Royal Marines and British armed forces.
“The truth is that the Duke’s commitment to the military community is unquestionable.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex officially stood down as senior royals in late March 2020.
By relinquishing his role as full-time working royal, Harry also had to give up his three military patronages, positions expected to be filled later this year.