Meghan Markle could face fresh High Court privacy battle as judge allows appeal over letter ruling

Meghan Markle could face fresh High Court privacy battle as judge allows appeal over letter ruling

March 22, 2021

MEGHAN Markle could face a fresh High Court privacy battle after a judge allowed a newspaper time to appeal against her victory over the publication of a letter to her dad.

The royal was set to receive an apology after the judge ruled a national paper breached her privacy when it printed extracts of a five-page letter she'd written to Thomas Markle.

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But now she'll face a wait – after The Mail On Sunday was told it can seek permission to appeal the decision.

The paper had been ordered to print a front-page statement about Meghan's victory earlier this month.

But that's now on hold to allow the newspaper's publisher Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) to make a bid to overturn the ruling.

What's happening in Meghan Markle's privacy battle?

  • A judge told The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline to publish an apology to Meghan Markle after she won the latest round of her privacy battle earlier this month
  • The same judge said the paper's publisher ANL couldn't appeal his ruling
  • However, ANL went directly to the Court of Appeal – and the judge has today said the apology will be postponed to allow lawyers time to try to overturn the decision
  • Meghan, 39, demanded an apology after suing ANL over a series of articles which reproduced parts of a letter sent to her dad Thomas Markle. Last month, she won that part of her case against the publisher
  • But today, the Mail has won the right to use a smaller typeface in the front page notice – and because of their appeal, that apology won't be published yet

The paper also won the right to use a smaller typeface than originally demanded when they print the statement.

The pregnant duchess, 39, sued ANL over a series of articles which reproduced parts of a "heartfelt" letter sent to Mr Markle, 76, in August 2018.

She claimed the five articles published in February 2019 involved a misuse of her private information, breached her copyright and breached the Data Protection Act.

Last month, Meghan was granted summary judgment in relation to her privacy claim, meaning she won that part of the case without having to go to trial, as well as most of her copyright claim.

ANL were initially refused permission to appeal against that decision, but can still apply directly to the Court of Appeal.

And today, Lord Justice Warby said ANL had also applied for permission to appeal against his order requiring both The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline to publish the statements.

The judge had refused ANL permission to appeal.

But he's now postponed the order for an apology until the case goes before the Court of Appeal.

Earlier this month, the judge ordered that The Mail On Sunday must publish a front-page apology to Meghan. The statement must also run on MailOnline for a week with a link to the court's full ruling on Meghan's win, he ruled.

The same edition of the newspaper will have to state on page three that the High Court gave judgment for the Duchess on her claim for copyright infringement.

Paper can publish smaller apology – eventually

As well as granting ANL time to seek permission to appeal, the judge ruled The Mail On Sunday could publish a smaller front-page apology than the one she asked for.

The Duchess wanted an apology similar in size and scale to an original front-page trailer about the letter.

But today a judge ruled in favour of the paper after studying a proposed mock-up page.

“If the statement was printed in the same font as the trailer it would consume a much, much greater proportion of the front page, becoming the main story of the day, or significantly downgrading that news story,” Lord Justice Warby said in a ruling.

The mock-up seemed to be “sufficiently prominent and eye-catching”, said the judge.

But the apology doesn't have to be printed yet – as ANL are heading to the Court of Appeal in a bid to have the order overturned.

It will also have to include the following statement: "The court found that Associated Newspapers infringed her copyright by publishing extracts of her handwritten letter to her father in The Mail On Sunday and in MailOnline."

It comes after the judge said publication of Meghan's letter to her father was "manifestly excessive and hence unlawful".

He said: "It was, in short, a personal and private letter.

"The majority of what was published was about the claimant's own behaviour, her feelings of anguish about her father's behaviour, as she saw it, and the resulting rift between them.

"These are inherently private and personal matters."

He said "the only tenable justification for any such interference was to correct some inaccuracies about the letter", contained in an article in People magazine, published just days before ANL's five articles, which featured an interview with five friends of Meghan.

He also said ANL's arguments on ownership of the copyright of the letter "seem to me to occupy the shadowland between improbability and unreality".

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