Mail on Sunday privacy appeal dismissed by UK court

A British court has dismissed an appeal by a newspaper publisher seeking to overturn an earlier ruling that it breached the privacy of the Duchess of Sussex by publishing portions of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.

The Court of Appeal in London on Thursday upheld a February High Court ruling that publication of the letter Meghan Markle wrote to her estranged father, Thomas, after she married Prince Harry in 2018 was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”.

The publisher of the Mail on Sunday and the MailOnline website challenged that decision in a hearing last month.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are seen ahead of their visit to the iconic Titanic Belfast during their trip to Northern Ireland on March 23, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. (Getty)

In a statement, Meghan 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 she didn’t intend the letter to be seen by anyone but her father.

The publisher 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 the publication of the letter was part of Thomas Markle’s right to reply following misleading media reports that alleged he was “cruelly cold-shouldering” his daughter in the run-up to her royal wedding.

But a judge ruled Thursday 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 those reports.

Thomas Markle Snr Fox News interview Archie and Lilibet
A judge said the article was “splashed as a new public revelation,” rather than focusing on Thomas Markle’s response to earlier reports. (Fox News)

In its appeal, Associated Newspapers also argued 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 she or Harry collaborated with the authors. But Knauf said in evidence to the court 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, 40, apologised 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 apologise 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 in a written statement.

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.

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