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

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Thieves pilfer trailer, camera, tools, cigarettes and cleaning supplies

Parksville, Nanoose Bay feature prominently among 226 complaints to Oceanside RCMP

Mary Ellen Campbell, president of the Parksville Museum, visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: A chat with Parksville Museum president Mary Ellen Campbell

Podcast: Talk includes plans for 2021, dealing with COVID-19 and more

Eaglecrest Golf Club plans to operate as a nine-hole course starting April 1. (Eaglecrest Facebook photo)
Eaglecrest Golf Club in Qualicum Beach still plans to have course layout reduced to 9 holes

Town council continues to negotiate lease for 18-hole operation

A rendering of a proposed housing development located across from the beachfront in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Multi-residential development planned across from Qualicum Beach waterfront

Residents raise variety of concerns about project

Proprietor of Sweet Truck, Morgan Ray, as she hands off her baked goods to a customer. (Photo courtesy of Avrinder Dhillon Photography)
COVID-19: Qualicum Beach baker eyes move back from food truck to bricks and mortar

Storefront offers more stability amid growth in sales: Ray

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)

Most Read