Meghan Markle has won her privacy case against a tabloid newspaper that printed extracts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.
The Duchess of Sussex expressed her gratitude to the courts for holding Mail on Sunday to account “for their illegal and dehumanising practices”.
Meghan, 39, the wife of the Queen’s grandson, Prince Harry, had sued publisher Associated Newspapers after the tabloid printed parts of the handwritten letter she sent to her 76-year-old father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018.
Meghan wrote the five-page letter to her dad after their relationship collapsed in the run-up to her glittering wedding to Harry in May 2018, which Mr Markle missed due to ill health and after he admitted posing for paparazzi pictures.
In two days of hearings in January, her lawyers said printing the “personal and sensitive” letter was a “triple-barrelled” assault on the Duchess’ “private life, her family life and her correspondence” and plainly breached her privacy.
But the paper argued the Duchess intended the letter’s contents to become public and it formed part of a media strategy, pointing out she had admitted in court papers discussing it with her communications secretary.
The Mail, which published extracts in February 2019, said it did so to allow Mr Markle to respond to comments made by Meghan’s anonymous friends in interviews with the US magazine People.
“For the most part they did not serve that purpose at all,” London High Court Judge Mark Warby said, ruling that the articles did breach Meghan’s privacy and were unlawful.
He said the Duchess “had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private”, and the Mail on Sunday articles “interfered with that reasonable expectation”.
“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,” the judge said.
“These are inherently private and personal matters.”
However, he said issues relating to her copyright of the letter would need to be settled at a trial.
Mr Warby said “the only tenable justification” for the Mail on Sunday’s interference “was to correct some inaccuracies” in an article in People magazine, which mentioned the handwritten letter.
But the judge said, “the disclosures made were not a necessary or proportionate means of serving that purpose”.
“Taken as a whole the disclosures were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful,” he added.
In a statement, the Duchess of Sussex said the damage caused by Associated Newspapers “runs deep”.
“For these outlets, it’s a game. For me and so many others, it’s real life, real relationships, and very real sadness,” she said.
Meghan said her “comprehensive win” means “we have all 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.”
The newspaper said it was considering an appeal.
“We are very surprised by today’s summary judgment and disappointed at being denied the chance to have all the evidence heard and tested in open court at a full trial,” the paper said in a statement.
“We are carefully considering the judgment’s contents and will decide in due course whether to lodge an appeal.”
There will be a hearing on March 2 to discuss next steps in the case.