“This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right,” says Meghan, Duchess of Sussex after an appeal by the Daily Mail in her years-long privacy suit against the tabloid was denied. On Thursday, London’s Court of Appeal upheld a February ruling by the High Court that the Mail on Sunday’s publication of portions a letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, following her royal wedding in 2018 was a breach of privacy and therefore unlawful.
As reported by the Associated Press:
The publisher of the Mail on Sunday and the MailOnline website challenged that decision at the Court of Appeal, which held a hearing last month. Dismissing that appeal, senior judge Geoffrey Vos told the court in a brief hearing Thursday that “the Duchess had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter. Those contents were personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest.”
The Mail’s publisher, Associated Newspapers Limited, owned by Lord Jonathan Rothermere, had contested that position in its appeal, presenting evidence of correspondence between Meghan and her then-communications secretary, Jason Knauf (now in the employ of her in-laws, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) that suggested she suspected her letter might be leaked—and wrote it with that possibility in mind. The publisher also attempted to delegitimize the issue of privacy by raising the issue that Meghan, along with Harry, had cooperated with the authors of the book Finding Freedom, which detailed their exodus from the royal family. Meghan had previously denied any involvement in the book’s publication, but Knauf again disputed her account.
The duchess’ lawyers had previously denied that she or Harry collaborated with the authors. But Knauf said in evidence to the court that he gave the writers information, and discussed it with Harry and Meghan.
Knauf’s evidence, which hadn’t previously been disclosed, was a dramatic twist in the long-running case.
In response, Meghan apologized for misleading the court about the extent of her cooperation with the book’s authors.
The duchess said she didn’t remember the discussions with Knauf when she gave evidence earlier in the case, “and I apologize to the court for the fact that I had not remembered these exchanges at the time.”
“I had absolutely no wish or intention to mislead the defendant or the court,” she said.
Despite these complications, the Court of Appeal maintained that the five articles published by the Mail featuring excerpts from a letter written from Meghan to her father—who then shared the missive with the media—were a violation of her privacy not covered by Thomas Markle’s “right to reply” to any negative reports about him.
“The articles in the Mail on Sunday interfered with the duchess’ reasonable expectation of privacy and were not a justified or proportionate means of correcting inaccuracies about the letter,” stated the Court of Appeal’s summary, via the Telegraph.
As a result, Associated Newspapers Limited “must still pay hundreds of thousands in legal costs and print a front-page apology, both of which had been on hold awaiting Thursday’s decision,” Page Six reports.
In a statement issued after the ruling on Thursday, Meghan, who has long been a target of British media, celebrated the victory as not only hers, but a pushback at exploitative journalism. She also took a subtle jab at the Daily Mail by incorporating its less-flattering nickname, “daily fail.”
Meghan’s statement, in full (h/t Telegraph):
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. 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. In the nearly three years since this began, I have been patient in the face of deception, intimidation, and calculated attacks.
Today, the courts ruled in my favor—again—cementing that The Mail on Sunday, owned by Lord Jonathan Rothermere, has broken the law. 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. These harmful practices don’t happen once in a blue moon - they are a daily fail that divide us, and we all deserve better.