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Markle Wins Privacy Fight With Tabloid Over Letter to Father (2)

Feb. 11, 2021, 6:34 PM

Meghan Markle won her lawsuit against a British tabloid over its publication of a letter she wrote to her father, setting a new U.K. precedent about the press’s ability to publish private correspondence.

London Judge Mark Warby ruled in the Duchess of Sussex’s favor, ending the majority of the case without a trial. If she’d lost, several high-profile figures would have testified in court about her private life.

Markle, 39, sued the paper over a series of articles which printed excerpts of the handwritten letter sent to Thomas Markle in August 2018, which showed the apparent breakdown of the relationship between the pair.

“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 dehumanizing practices,” Markle said in a statement.

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

At a hearing in January, it was revealed that four former palace aides would be prepared to testify in the case. Markle and her father were also likely to appear at the trial, which was set to begin in October.

A spokeswoman for the Mail on Sunday said it was surprised and disappointed by the ruling. It’s yet to decide whether it will appeal, she said.

Press Freedom

The so-called summary judgment, a legal step that resolves parts of the case without a trial, is a blow to the popular British tabloid. The ruling curbs the freedom of the press to publish private correspondence.

Meghan’s win “reinforces the legitimate but often forgotten principle that you can have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your private correspondence despite being an actress/duchess/celebrity,” said Amber Melville-Brown, a privacy lawyer at Withers in London.

“This judgment not only requires the newspaper to eat humble pie for its copyright infringement, it seems set to take Meghan’s private life -- for which its readers have quite a taste -- right off the menu,” she said.

Issues “of minor significance” remain in the case, including proving Markle is the owner of the letter, Judge Warby said. The next steps, including the possibility of a limited trial, will be decided at a hearing in March.

(Updates with statements from Markle, Mail on Sunday starting in fourth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story:
Nimra Shahid in London at nshahid6@bloomberg.net;
Ellen Milligan in London at emilligan11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Sonali Pathirana at spathirana@bloomberg.net;
Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

Peter Chapman

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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