Parts of a Mail on Sunday article about Prince Harry’s legal claim against the Home Office were defamatory, a judge has said in an initial ruling.

Prince Harry is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) for libel over a February article about a dispute over his family’s security arrangements.

His barrister said the story falsely suggested he had “lied” and “cynically” tried to manipulate public opinion.

But ANL said it contained “no hint of impropriety” and was not defamatory.

The High Court ruling is the first stage of the libel claim. If the newspaper group still wishes to continue the case, the next stage will be for them to file a defence.

Mr Justice Nicklin said: “I should reiterate that the decision made in this judgment is solely concerned with the objective meaning of the article published by the defendant for the purposes of the claimant’s defamation claim.

“This is very much the first phase in a libel claim. The next step will be for the defendant to file a defence to the claim. It will be a matter for determination later in the proceedings whether the claim succeeds or fails, and if so on what basis.”

The story, published in the Mail on Sunday and online, referred to the Duke of Sussex’s separate legal case against the Home Office over security arrangements when he and his family are in the UK.

In a written statement to last month’s preliminary hearing, Prince Harry said it had caused him “substantial hurt, embarrassment and distress, which is continuing”.

The prince’s barrister Justin Rushbrooke said the article suggested he had “lied in his initial public statements” by claiming to have always been willing to pay for police protection in the UK. The story suggested “he had only made such an offer recently, after his dispute had started and after his visit to the UK in June 2021”, Mr Rushbrooke said.

The latest libel ruling comes a day after a court heard Prince Harry faced “significant tensions” with a top aide to the Queen involved in downgrading his security.

Challenging the decision, Prince Harry’s lawyer said he had not been aware Sir Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, played a role.

The decision was “materially prejudiced” as key information was withheld, Shaeed Fatima QC said.

The duke lost full protection after he stepped back from royal duties in 2020.