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

From left to right. Jeremy, Ryan and Mitch Hunter are all third generation owners of Excel Tire, which will soon to become Trail Tire. (File)
3 generations later: Iconic Revelstoke tire business to be retread with new name

Excel Tire soon to become Trail Tire, but is still owned by the Hunter family

Ryan Bavin of Bavin Glassworks in Invermere. Photo: Submitted
Call for entries for Columbia Basin Culture Tour

Deadline for registration for artists and venues is April 15

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

Downtown Revelstoke on March 4, 2021. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
48 COVID-19 cases in February for Revelstoke

Since the start of the pandemic roughly one out of 30 local residents have contracted the virus

Mussel inspection sit set up at B.C.-Alberta border. (Contributed)
Okanagan Basin Water Board calls for stronger invasive mussel protection

Letter sets out six recommendations for environment minister George Heyman to consider

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

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

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
B.C. dentists and bus drivers want newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely

Most Read