UK court backs Meghan in dispute over privacy with publisher

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, arrive at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for the Salute to Freedom Gala Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in New York. The Duke of Sussex will also present the inaugural Intrepid Valor Award to five service members, veterans and their military families. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

LONDON (AP) — The Duchess of Sussex on Thursday won the latest stage in her long-running privacy lawsuit against a newspaper publisher over its publication of parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.

The Court of Appeal in London upheld a High Court ruling in February that publication of the letter that the former Meghan Markle wrote to her father Thomas Markle after she married Prince Harry in 2018 was unlawful and breached her privacy.

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.”

In a statement, Meghan, 40, said the ruling was “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.

Associated Newspapers disputed Meghan’s claim that she didn’t intend the letter to be seen by anyone but her father. They said correspondence between Meghan and her then-communications secretary, Jason Knauf, showed the duchess suspected her father might leak the letter to journalists and wrote it with that in mind.

The publisher also argued that the publication of the letter was part of Thomas Markle’s right to reply following a People magazine interview with five of Meghan’s friends alleging he was “cruelly cold-shouldering” his daughter in the run-up to her royal wedding.

But Vos said that the article, which the Mail on Sunday described as “sensational,” was “splashed as a new public revelation” rather than focusing on Thomas Markle’s response to negative media reports about him.

In their appeal, Associated Newspapers had also argued that Meghan made private information public by cooperating with Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, authors of “Finding Freedom,” a sympathetic book about her and Harry.

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.

Meghan, a former star of the American TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018.

Meghan and Harry announced in early 2020 that they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They have settled in Santa Barbara, California, with their two young children.

In her statement Thursday, Meghan strongly condemned Associated Newspapers for treating the lawsuit as “a game with no rules.” She said she had been subject to “deception, intimidation and calculated attacks” in the three years since the lawsuit began.

“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,” she said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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