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Meghan Markle Wins Privacy Claim Against British Newspaper Over Letter To Her Father

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend a roundtable discussion on gender equality with The Queens Commonwealth Trust and One Young World at Windsor Castle on October 25, 2019. GETTY IMAGES

Meghan Markle has won her high-profile privacy claim against a British newspaper group for publishing a private letter that she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.

The Duchess of Sussex, who is married to Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson Prince Harry, brought the case against Associated Newspapers after extracts of the 2018 letter appeared in 2019.

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Judge Mark Warby on Thursday ruled that Meghan had a “reasonable expectation that the contents would remain private and not be published to the world at large by a national newspaper; the defendant’s conduct in publishing the contents of the letter was a misuse of her private information.”

The letter to Thomas Markle was written a few months after Meghan married Harry, and asked her father to stop talking to tabloids and making false claims about her in interviews.

The judge called it “a personal and private letter” about Meghan’s own behaviour, her feelings of anguish about her father’s behaviour — as she saw it — and the resulting rift”.

The newspaper group’s defence team argued the publication was to correct inaccuracies in a previous article in the US magazine People. But the judge said the extracts published were “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”.

Meghan welcomed the ruling, and thanked the court for holding Associated to account for what she said were “illegal and dehumanising practices”.

“After two long years of pursuing litigation, I am grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and The Mail on Sunday to account for their illegal and dehumanizing practices,” she said.

Meghan Markle | Photo GettyImages

“These tactics (and those of their sister publications MailOnline and the Daily Mail) are not new; in fact, they’ve been going on for far too long without consequence. For these outlets, it’s a game. 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,” Meghan said.

The amount of damages that Meghan will receive has not been disclosed. The judge also granted summary judgment in relation to most of a claim by the Duchess over copyright.

But he said the “minor” issue raised by the defence of whether Meghan owned the full copyright of the letter or was a co-author should go to a limited trial, after claims that royal officials helped Meghan to draft it.

The judge said a March 2 hearing would discuss costs and the remaining copyright issues.

Associated had called for the privacy case to go to a full trial but Meghan’s lawyers argued the claim had no realistic prospect of success. The newsgroup said it was “very surprised” by the judgment and “disappointed at being denied the chance to have all the evidence heard and tested in open court at a full trial”.

A decision on whether to appeal was being considered, it added. The newspaper publishers had argued that witnesses were needed to “shed light” on whether Meghan was planning for the letter to be made public as part of a “media strategy”.

But Meghan’s lawyers described the letter as “self-evidently private” and denied she intended the letter to be made public at any point.

Meghan and Harry quit frontline royal duties in March last year and now live in California. They have launched a number of legal cases against news outlets alleging invasion of privacy.

In a separate legal dispute, Prince Harry accepted an apology and “substantial damages” last week from the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline website over reports he snubbed soldiers after stepping down as a senior royal.

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