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

RCMP are looking for “an unknown man who wrapped his arms around” a female youth in Clayton Feb. 26. (Black Press file photo)
Youth assaulted by unknown man in Cloverdale

Mounties looking for ‘tall and thin’ Caucasian man in his 40’s with short dark brown hair

(File photo)
Township to hold COVID-safe baseball spring break baseball camps

Aldergrove minor baseball and North Langley Trappers run two week camps

The Langley School District has issued COVID-19 notifications for H.D. Stafford Middle and Blacklock Fine Arts Elementary schools. (Langley Schools)
The Langley School District has issued COVID-19 notifications for H.D. Stafford Middle and Blacklock Fine Arts Elementary schools. (Langley Schools)
Langley schools issued COVID-19 alerts, third this week for H.D. Stafford

As of Friday there are four local schools on the exposure list

Nesting season is marked after South Surrey preserve pair welcome first egg on Feb. 24, 2021. (Hancock Wildlife Foundation)
VIDEO: South Surrey bald eagle preserve welcomes first egg, marks nesting season

Second egg is expected Saturday afternoon and the babies will hatch in April

A model of the planned Salishan Place centre was displayed at a Fort public information session in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
$711,000 tourism grant goes to Langley arts and culture centre

Salishan Place by the River is a planned community hub with many amenities and uses

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Passengers aboard Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, 1914 - Library and Archives Canada image
Abbotsford council is asked to rename street in memory of Komagata Maru victims

Most of 376 the passengers aboard ship were denied entry into Canada in 1914

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

Most Read