Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has won her high court privacy case against the Mail on Sunday.
She sued Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher behind The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, after a series of articles were published in February 2019, which reproduced parts of a “personal and private” handwritten letter which had been sent to her from her estranged father Thomas Markle.
After a two year long battle, judge Mr Justice Warby granted summary judgement in Markle’s favour.
‘A personal and private letter’
On Thursday, Mr Justice Warby ruled that the publication of the letter to her father was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”.
The judge said: “It was, in short, a personal and private letter.
“The majority of what was published was about the claimant’s own behaviour, her feelings of anguish about her father’s behaviour, as she saw it, and the resulting rift between them.
“These are inherently private and personal matters.
“The claimant had reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private. The articles interfered with that reasonable expectation.”
The judge said that “the only tenable justification for any such interference was to correct some inaccuracies about the letter”, contained in an article in People magazine which featured an interview with five friends of Markle.
Mr Justice Warby added: “The inescapable conclusion is that, save to the very limited extent that I have identified, the disclosures made were not a necessary or proportionate means of serving that purpose.
“For the most part they did not serve that purpose at all.
“Taken as a whole the disclosures were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful.”
‘A comprehensive win on both privacy and copyright’
In a statement after the ruling, Markle said: “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 dehumanising practices.
“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.
“The world needs reliable, fact checked, high quality news.
“What The Mail on Sunday and its partner publications do is the opposite.
“We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency and when companies create their business model to profit from people’s pain.
“But, for today, with this comprehensive win on both privacy and copyright, we all have won.
“We now know, and hope it creates legal precedent, that you cannot take somebody’s privacy and exploit it in a privacy case, as the defendant has blatantly done over the past two years.
“I share this victory with each of you, because we all deserve justice and truth, and we all deserve better.
“I particularly want to thank my husband, my mum, and legal team, and especially Jenny Afia for her unrelenting support throughout this process.”
‘Surprised by the summary judgement’
A spokesperson for ANL said: “We are very surprised by today’s summary judgement and disappointed at being denied the chance to have all the evidence heard and tested in open court at full trial.
“We are carefully considering the judgement’s contents and will decide in due course whether to lodge an appeal.”
ANL had claimed that Markle had written the latter in question “with a view to it being disclosed publicly at some future point” in order to “defend against charges of being an uncaring or unloving daughter”.