Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex has won the latest stage of her legal battle against The Mail on Sunday Newspaper this morning.
Meghan sued Associated Newspapers, the publisher of Mail Online, over five articles reproducing parts of the “personal and private” letter to Thomas Markle in August 2018.
The Mail on Sunday owners brought an appeal and, at a three-day hearing in November, argued the case should go to trial on Meghan’s claims including breach of privacy and copyright.
The Duchess won her case earlier this year when a High Court judge gave a summary judgment in her favour without need for a trial.
The Court of Appeal rejected Associated Newspapers’ attempt to have a trial over its publication of extracts from Meghan’s letter to her Mr Markle.
In her written evidence, Meghan denied she thought it likely that her father would leak the letter, but “merely recognised that this was a possibility”.
Jason Knauf, former communications secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, claimed in a witness statement that Meghan wrote the letter with the understanding that it could be leaked.
He said she sent him an early draft of the letter and had written: “Obviously everything I have drafted is with the understanding that it could be leaked so I have been meticulous in my word choice, but please do let me know if anything stands out for you as a liability.”
In further texts released by the court, the Duchess can be seen expressing her frustration about the response of the royal family, describing them as “constantly berating” Harry.
The Court of Appeal also heard that Mr Knauf provided information to the authors of the biography Finding Freedom – Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand – leading to Meghan apologising for misleading the court about whether he had given information.
Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, commented this morning, following the win: “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,” she said in a statement.
“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.”
Steven Heffer, Partner and Head of Media & Privacy at Collyer Bristow, commented on the outcome of the appeal: “The outcome of the appeal should not surprise those who have closely followed the legal principles involved in the case, despite the heavy legal fire power brought into play by the Mail.”
“The case was originally decided by a senior and respected High Court Judge who had practised as a media lawyer often acting for newspapers. He could not be accused of being Claimant friendly. His reasoned judgment set out in detail why she was entitled to judgment without a trial. That was hard for the Mail to take as they wanted the spectacle and drama of a big trial with cross examination of Royals and Royal aides.”
On the claims related to privacy, Heffer added: “In general terms, privacy law requires the Court to balance the Claimant’s right to privacy against the rights of the press to publish matters which are in the public interest, but this is not the same as what the public may be interested in reading.
“None of this is new law, the courts deal with this balancing exercise all the time in media cases. An individual has the right to a private life, and to keep information private, but the media has a right to publish information if there is a genuine public interest in the story. It is clear that the Mail failed to establish any such public interest in this case.”
More to follow