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Image / Living / Culture

‘The damage runs deep’: Meghan Markle’s privacy win is a big step forward


by Jennifer McShane
12th May 2021
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The Duchess of Sussex has won the final part of her high court privacy case against the Mail on Sunday.

After a two-year legal battle, a judge granted summary judgment in Meghan’s favour over the newspaper’s publication of extracts of a personal and private handwritten letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle. She took action claiming misuse of private information against Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Mail on Sunday (MoS) and Mail Online, for publication of a number of articles in February 2019 that included extracts from the letter.

It has emerged now that she also won the remainder of her copyright claim against the Mail on Sunday over the publication – the newspaper had suggested she may not have been the sole copyright owner.

The duchess won her case after her former communications secretary denied co-writing the letter.

Associated Newspapers had previously argued the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s former communications secretary Jason Knauf was a co-author of the letter, meaning its copyright belonged to the Crown.

However, the High Court heard Mr Knauf has “emphatically” denied co-writing the letter to Thomas Markle. Through his lawyers, he said, “it was the duchess’s letter alone”. The court was also told this “gives the lie” to the newspaper’s suggestion that Markle considered using the letter “as part of a media strategy.”

In his judgment, Lord Justice Warby 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.”

He added the publication of the letters was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful.”

Launching their case in 2019, Prince Harry and Markle said they were forced to take action against “relentless propaganda”, with the duke saying he feared his wife would fall victim to “the same powerful forces” as his mother.

“The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep”

The Duchess said her legal victory was a “comprehensive win” on her privacy, adding it showed “you cannot take somebody’s privacy and exploit it in a privacy case.”

“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 Mail Online and the Daily Mail – are not new … 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,” she said.

“Unsurvivable abuse”

Markle has previously spoken candidly about the “almost unsurvivable” abuse she was subjected to online as a result of what was inherently racist press coverage by some of the British tabloids while she was a working member of the royal family, and recalled being told back in 2019 that she was “the most trolled person in the entire world”.

Meghan told the Teenage Therapy podcast: “Eight months of that, I wasn’t even visible, I was on maternity leave with the baby – but what was able to be manufactured and churned out, it’s almost unsurvivable, it’s so big you can’t even think what that feels like.”

Her win against some tabloids using the guise of her being a public figure as grounds for publishing private information will hopefully serve as a warning – yes, she lives a life of privilege but she is still entitled to say no, have a private life, without automatically being taken to task with her most sensitive moments laid bare for the world to see.

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