22/04/2021

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Victory for the Duchess of Sussex in privacy claim against the Mail on Sunday

The Duchess of Sussex

Anwar Hussein/WireImage

The Duchess of Sussex has won her High Court privacy claim against the Mail on Sunday, concerning the paper’s publication of excerpts from a letter she wrote to her father.

Sky News reports that in a High Court judgment on Thursday 11 February, the judge granted Meghan ‘summary judgment’ in her claim for misuse of private information against Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Mail on Sunday and the MailOnline. This part of Meghan’s case against the publisher has therefore been resolved without yet going to trial.

In a statement, the Duchess thanked Prince Harry and her mother, Doria Ragland, for their support, as well as commenting that she is ‘grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and the Mail on Sunday to account for their illegal and dehumanising practices’.

Meghan wrote the ‘personal and private’ letter to her father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018. Sections of the handwritten correspondence were published in the newspaper and online in February 2019. The paper’s headline read: ‘Revealed: The letter showing true tragedy of Meghan’s rift with a father she says has “broken her heart into a million pieces”.’ Meghan was suing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), for breach of copyright, infringement of her privacy and breaches of the Data Protection Act over the articles in question.

Mr Justice Warby said: ‘The claimant had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private. The Mail articles interfered with that reasonable expectation.’ He added that ‘the only tenable justification for any such interference was to correct some inaccuracies about the letter’ in an article that appeared in People magazine, which included an interview with five anonymous friends of Meghan’s.

The judge went on: ‘The inescapable conclusion is that, save to the very limited extent I have identified, the disclosures made were not a necessary or proportionate means of serving that purpose. For the most part they did not serve that purpose at all. Taken as a whole the disclosures were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful.’

Last summer, ANL was granted permission to include the recent biography of the Sussexes, Finding Freedom, as part of their defence. The Duchess’s legal team tried to get the ruling overturned, arguing that claims Prince Harry and Meghan ‘collaborated’ with the authors were a ‘conspiracy theory’, and that references to the letter in the book were ‘extracts from the letter lifted from the defendant’s own articles’.

The latest news comes two months after a separate legal case was concluded in Meghan’s favour, when a court ruled that Splash News and Pictures ‘unlawfully invaded’ the privacy of the Duchess and her son, Archie Mountbatten Windsor, after photographing them in a Vancouver park last January.

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