FILE - In this Saturday March 7, 2020 file photo, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex with Prince Harry arrives at the Royal Albert Hall in London, to attend the Mountbatten Festival of Music. A British judge ruled Thursday Feb. 11, 2021, that a newspaper invaded Duchess of Sussex’s privacy by publishing personal letter to her estranged father. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP, File)

UK judge says newspaper invaded Meghan’s privacy with letter

High Court judge Mark Warby ruled that the publisher had misused the duchess’s private information and infringed her copyright

A newspaper invaded the Duchess of Sussex’s privacy by publishing a personal letter to her estranged father, a British judge ruled Thursday, in a major victory for the royal in her campaign against what she sees as media intrusion.

The former American actress Meghan Markle, 39, sued publisher Associated Newspapers for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement over five February 2019 articles in the Mail on Sunday and on the MailOnline website that published large portions of a letter she wrote to her father after her 2018 wedding to Prince Harry.

High Court judge Mark Warby ruled that the publisher had misused the duchess’s private information and infringed her copyright.

He said the duchess “had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private. The Mail articles interfered with that reasonable expectation.”

Meghan said she was grateful to the court for holding Associated Newspapers to account “for their illegal and dehumanizing practices.”

She said that “with this comprehensive win on both privacy and copyright, we have all won.”

Associated Newspapers said it was “very surprised by today’s summary judgment and disappointed at being denied the chance to have all the evidence heard and tested in open court at a full trial.”

“We are carefully considering the judgment’s contents and will decide in due course whether to lodge an appeal,” said the publishing company, which had strongly contested Meghan’s claim.

A trial in the case, scheduled for the fall, would have been one of the most high-profile civil legal showdowns in London for years. But at hearings last month, lawyers for the duchess asked for a summary judgment to settle the case without a trial.

In granting the request, the judge said the publisher’s disclosures of large chunks of Meghan’s private letter to her father, Thomas Markle, “were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful.”

“There is no prospect that a different judgment would be reached after a trial,” he said.

Meghan’s lawyers said the “deeply personal” five-page letter was intended to be read by her father alone. Her attorney, Justin Rushbrooke, argued in January that the publisher had “no real prospect” of winning the case.

“For these outlets, it’s a game,” Meghan said in her statement after the ruling. “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.”

But the defence argued Meghan wrote the letter as part of a media strategy to rebut a negative view conveyed by her father in indiscreet media appearances, and with help from the communications team in the royal couple’s Kensington Palace office.

Thursday’s ruling means Meghan has won her case on privacy and copyright infringement grounds, but the judge said a “limited trial” should be held to decide the “minor” issue of whether Meghan was “the sole author” and lone copyright holder of the letter.

The defence argues that Jason Knauf, Harry and Meghan’s former communications director, was the letter’s co-author. The judge said that argument “cannot be described as convincing, and seems improbable,” but should still be decided at a trial.

Meghan, a former star of the American TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year.

In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California.

Mark Stephens, a media lawyer with the firm Howard Kennedy in London, cautioned that the legal saga might be far from over.

“The Mail on Sunday almost have to take it to appeal because the state of privacy laws (are) in a mess in this country, and they need a definitive statement,” he said. “So (Meghan) may not be allowed to walk off the pitch. She may have to go through an appeal yet. So this is just round one.”

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Royal family

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

Penticton’s Law Courts.	(File)
Penticton beach attacker to serve two more years behind bars

Thomas Kruger-Allen was sentenced in a Penticton court on Friday

Premier John Horgan looks on during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, February 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Premier touches on protest, housing controversy in Penticton

Protesters have said they plan to go on despite police warning

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is offering home compost bins at reduced prices until March 25. (Contributed)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen offers compost bins at wholesale costs

Pricing offer at participating stores in place until March 25

About 50 people gathered Friday, March 5, 2021 in Penticton to protest city council’s decision to close a temporary winter shelter. (Jesse Day - Western News)
WATCH: Protest over Penticton shelter draws large crowd

People are gathering in Gyro Park to protest the closure of a winter shelter

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Paramjit Bogarh, connected to the murder of his wife in Vernon 35 years ago, has been relerased on full parole, one year after he was sentenced to five years in prison for accessory after the fact. (Contributed)
Full parole for ex-Okanagan man who helped wife’s alleged killer escape

Paramjit Bogarh pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after helping brother flee Canada

The Princeton Traditional Music Festival, normally held in August, was denied a grant due to COVID. (File photo)
COVID makes some of the 2021 grant decisions for Princeton council

Municipality doles out funds while striving to meet policy

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Most Read