Meghan Markle has called for a reshaping of the tabloid newspaper industry in Britain and said she had been patient in the face of "deception, intimidation, and calculated attacks" as the Mail on Sunday lost its appeal in its three-year privacy battle with her over a letter to her estranged father.
The Duchess of Sussex sued Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), also the publisher of Mail Online, over five articles reproducing parts of the "personal and private" letter to Thomas Markle (77) in August 2018.
The duchess (40), won her case earlier this year when a high court judge gave summary judgment in her favour without need for a trial. But ANL appealed on the grounds the case should go to trial on Ms Markle’s claims including breach of privacy and copyright.
Dismissing the appeal, the court of appeal judges Sir Geoffrey Vos, Dame Victoria Sharp and Lord Justice Bean upheld Lord Justice Warby's decision to grant summary judgment, and ruled that the duchess had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the contents of the letter.
“Those contents were personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest,” Sir Geoffrey said in a summary of the ruling read aloud.
In a statement, the duchess said: “This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right. While this win is precedent-setting, what matters most is that we are now collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel, and profits from the lies and pain that they create.”
ANL said it was is considering an appeal to the supreme court. A statement said the publisher was “very disappointed” by the decision, and its “strong view” was “judgment should be given only on the basis of evidence treated at trial” in “a heavily contested case, before even disclosure of documents”.
Before the appeal Ms Markle’s costs were estimated at £1.5 million (€1.75 million), but that figure will have increased with the appeal.
Rejecting ANL's argument that publication of the extracts was justified to correct a negative portrayal of Thomas Markle in US People magazine, the judges said it was "not a justified or proportionate means of correcting" any inaccuracies. They agreed with Lord Justice Warby that just one paragraph of the letter could have been "justifiably deployed" to rebut People magazine's allegations against Ms Markle.
During the appeal hearing in November, ANL said Ms Markle had written the letter with the knowledge it could be leaked. In her written evidence, the duchess denied she thought it likely that her father would leak the letter, but “merely recognised that this was a possibility”.
The court of appeal noted the duchess’s apology, and said that “this was, at best, an unfortunate lapse of memory on her part, but did not bear on the issues”. It said it found the “new evidence” provided by ANL “of little assistance”.
Ms Markle’s barristers had argued that the letter was “deeply personal” and “self-evidently was intended to be kept private”.
Texts released by the court in November showed Meghan expressing her frustration with the royal family, describing them as “constantly berating” Harry over the negative publicity surrounding her father before their wedding. This was a catalyst for her writing the letter, to protect Harry from his family, she wrote to Knauf.
The case was discussed in the House of Commons on Thursday after the Scottish National Party MP Martin Docherty-Hughes asked Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the house, if he would congratulate the duchess.
Rees-Mogg said: “It is concerning that the rich and powerful can use the court to protect their private life when others can’t. I would be deeply concerned about anything that undermines freedom of speech.” – Guardian