The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, has won a privacy lawsuit against a UK tabloid after it published excerpts of a private letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle. Associated Newspapers, which owns The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Mail, and MailOnline, published parts of a letter Meghan wrote to her estranged father leading up to her 2018 Royal wedding to Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex.
In five separate articles over the course of February 2019, the UK tabloid organization reproduced the letters – something that the High Court of London ruled was a violation of her right to privacy.
Without the case having to go to full trial, the High Court, presided by Justice Mark Warby, wrote in the ruling that the Duchess “had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private.” His ruling also noted that the five published articles "interfered with that reasonable expectation."
Justice Warby ruled that in publishing the letter, what The Mail on Sunday did was, "manifestly excessive and hence unlawful. It was, in short, a personal and private letter," he wrote. "The majority of what was published was about the claimant's own behaviour, her feelings of anguish about her father's behaviour - as she saw it - and the resulting rift between them.”
"These are inherently private and personal matters."
However, this is only a partial victory. She has been granted summary judgment, which means that while her breach of privacy claim will not move to trial, her breach of copyright claim will, as she is also suing the tabloid company for copyright infringement regarding her authorship of the letter. The High Court said issues relating to copyright of the letter would need to be settled at a trial, which has been slated for March.
The Duchess released a statement Thursday about the ruling. She said, in part:
“After two long years of pursuing litigation, I am grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and The Mail on Sunday to account for their illegal and dehumanizing practices. These tactics (and those of their sister publications MailOnline and the Daily Mail) are not new; in fact, they’ve been going on for far too long without consequence. For these outlets, it’s a game. For me and so many others, it’s real life, real relationships, and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep.”
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“The world needs reliable, fact-checked, high-quality news. What The Mail on Sunday and its partner publications do is the opposite. We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency, and when companies create their business model to profit from people’s pain. But for today, with this comprehensive win on both privacy and copyright, we have all won. We now know, and hope it creates legal precedent, that you cannot take somebody’s privacy and exploit it in a privacy case, as the defendant has blatantly done over the past two years.”
“I share this victory with each of you—because we all deserve justice and truth, and we all deserve better.”
While Thomas Markle did not ultimately attend the Royal wedding, there was great speculation of his attendance leading up to the big event. Evidence filed in the court case showed that Prince Harry sent several text messages to his future father-in-law, begging him to refrain from speaking to the media. Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and Meghan’s father-in-law, eventually walked her down the aisle.
Early documents filed in the initial stages of the court proceedings also showed that Meghan felt "unprotected by the institution" of the Royal family during the media frenzy surrounding her pregnancy with son, Archie.
She has said that any money awarded her in the ruling of this case will be donated to anti-bullying charities, something that is very near and dear to the Sussex’s hearts.
Meghan and Harry infamously stepped back from royal duties in 2020, after enduring what they called racist and sexist attacks from the British media and British tabloids. Since then, the Duke has written an essay about the impacts and ills of social media bullying, and has released statements about how defeating racism is everyone’s job.
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