U.K. tabloid loses appeal in privacy case over Duchess Meghan’s letter to her father

LONDON – A British media company lost its appeal Thursday against a judge’s ruling that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex’s privacy, was breached by publishing parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.

The London Court of Appeal has rejected efforts by Associated Newspapers to overturn a February High Court ruling that ruled in Meghan’s favour.

The court dismissed the appeal, with Chief Justice Jeffrey Voss telling a brief hearing that the contents of the letter “were personal and private and not matters of legitimate public interest.”

Megan, 40, said in a statement Thursday’s ruling was not just a personal victory but a victory for “anyone who has ever felt afraid to stand up for what is right.”

“The most important thing is that we are now a collective brave enough to reshape the tabloid industry that makes people cruel, profiting from the lies and pain they create,” she said.

NBC News has reached out to Associated Newspapers for comment.

Meghan and Prince Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, announced a privacy lawsuit against Associated Newspapers in October 2019, before leaving their positions as a member of the royal family. They have sued the newspaper’s publisher for privacy and copyright infringement over a series of articles in February 2019 that reproduced parts of the handwritten letter Meghan sent to her father following the couple’s wedding in May 2018.

Speculation about Thomas Markle’s attendance dominated the preparations for the star-studded celebration at Windsor Castle. His daughter was expected to walk down the aisle, although he eventually missed the event due to ill health and Prince Charles took on the role.

in february, Judge Mark Warby He concluded that the Duchess “had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain confidential”, and that the articles “interfered with that reasonable expectation”.

He ordered the Associated Newspapers – the publisher of Mail on Sunday and MailOnline – to make a provisional payment of 450,000 pounds ($625,000) to cover Meghan’s legal costs, and said more “financial damages” would be dealt with later.

He said issues relating to the copyright of the letter should be settled in a trial.

Thomas Markle often appears on British TV to discuss his relationship with his daughter. GB News / via Zuma Press

Although she won, the appeal case did not go completely smoothly for the Duchess. Last month, she apologized for misleading the court about her collaboration with the authors of a book about her and Harry, Omid Scobie and Caroline Durand.

The press group argued that Meghan wrote the letter to her father knowing it might be published. They said she made private information public by collaborating with the “Finding Freedom” authors.

Although Meghan’s lawyers denied the couple had worked with the authors, former communications director Jason Knauf said he provided information to the authors, and discussed it with Harry and Meghan.

“I had absolutely no desire or intent to mislead the defendant or the court,” she said in an affidavit she witnessed published last month.

Knauf also said in his testimony statement that Meghan “asked me to review the text of the letter, saying, ‘Obviously everything I’ve drafted is on the grounds that it could be leaked.”

Knauf said Meghan asked if she should address her father in the letter as “Dad,” adding that “in the unfortunate event of a leak, it would be heart-warming.”

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The publisher also argued that publishing the letter was part of Thomas Markle’s right to respond after misleading media reports claiming he was “cruelly bearing” his daughter in the run-up to her royal wedding.

But the appeals court found that the Mail on Sunday articles were “sprayed as a new public announcement,” rather than focusing on Thomas Markle’s reaction to the attack on him.

When they first filed the lawsuit, Harry issued an angry statement against British newspapers for what he called a “cruel campaign” against his wife.

“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person,” he said. “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife fall victim to the same powerful forces.”

Both Harry and his brother Prince William have criticized the media for what they see as immoral practices, especially regarding the treatment of their mother, Princess Diana. In May, the brothers pushed for higher journalistic standards after a BBC investigation found that journalist Martin Bashir had used “deceptive behaviour” to secure a landmark interview with Diana in 1995.

Harry and Meghan shocked the world when they announced last year that they were stepping back from their roles as senior members of the royal family, and then moved to California. In an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey last March that escalated the ongoing royal feud between them, the Duchess of Sussex said she had been the victim of a “personal assassination” and that the pressure of being under a microscope had pushed her to the point of self-harm. .

News agency And Helena Skinner Contributed.

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