Meghan Markle wins privacy case appeal against Mail on Sunday
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The Court of Appeal ruled that the privacy case does not need to go to a full trial, rejecting Associated Newspapers’ attempt. There are concerns the judgement places the right to privacy over freedom of expression and public interest.
In the latest stage of the legal battle between the Duchess and the publishers of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, the Court of Appeal ruled that the matter did not warrant a full trial.
The defence had been hoping for a trial, but judges said it was hard to see what evidence a trial would be presented that would alter the situation.
The case concerns the publication of parts of the contents of a letter that Meghan had sent to her father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018, ahead of her marriage to Prince Harry.
Extracts of the letter were then reproduced in five articles by the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline in February 2019. The Court of Appeal agreed with the initial ruling that it was the volume of the letter that had been reproduced was why the Mail on Sunday had broken the law.
Matthew Dando, a media lawyer and partner at Wiggin LLP, told Richard Palmer, Express royal editor: “This is a troubling judgement which has very concerning consequences for freedom of expression.”
He added: “By preventing key evidence being heard regarding the preparation of the Duchess’ letter and its intended audience, the Court of Appeal has presumptively elevated the Duchess’ privacy rights over matters of public interest and freedom of expression.
“This decision heightens concerns that privacy laws permit public figures selectively to determine what can be reported about them and manipulate the media narrative.
“It also sets a dangerous precedent that anyone arguing against that status quo may not even be entitled properly to test the claimant’s evidence in court.”
Prince Harry announced the Duchess of Sussex had chosen to sue Associated Newspaper in a statement issued in early October 2019.
Meghan claimed at the time the Associated Newspapers’ articles containing her letter misused her private information, infringed her copyright and breached the Data Protection Act.
The Duchess initially won a privacy case at the High Court earlier this year, where Lord Justice Warby ruled in her favour without a full trial.
The judge said the publication of 585 out of 1,250 words in the letter was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”.
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However, Associated Newspaper appealed the judgement.
The judges at the Court of Appeal said today: “The judge had correctly decided that, whilst it might have been proportionate to publish a very small part of the letter for that purpose, it was not necessary to publish half the contents of the letter.”
Following the judgement by the Court of Appeal, the Duchess of Sussex issued an impassioned and scathing statement, saying: “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.
“From day one, I have treated this lawsuit as an important measure of right versus wrong.
“The defendant has treated it as a game with no rules.”
She claimed: “The longer they dragged it out, the more they could twist facts and manipulate the public (even during the appeal itself), making a straightforward case extraordinarily convoluted in order to generate more headlines and sell more newspapers – a model that rewards chaos above truth.”
The Duchess added: “The courts have held the defendant to account, and my hope is that we all begin to do the same.
“Because as far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it’s not.
“Tomorrow it could be you.”
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