UK publisher appeals against Meghan privacy ruling

·3-min read

A UK newspaper group began a legal challenge on Tuesday over a ruling that it breached the Duchess of Sussex's privacy by publishing parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.

Meghan, 40, successfully sued Associated Newspapers Limited, which publishes the Daily Mail, MailOnline and Mail on Sunday, over a series of articles based on the letter to Thomas Markle.

A High Court judge in February, arguing that the handwritten letter was "personal and private", said publication was "manifestly excessive and hence unlawful" and ordered Associated to print a front-page statement acknowledging her victory.

It has not yet done so because of the appeal, in which lawyers for the publishers argue that the letter was written with the knowledge that it could be made public.

"We read the judgment as implicity accepting that the letter was crafted as an intimate communication for her father's eyes only," said one of the lawyers, Andrew Caldecott.

But he said that was "false" based on new evidence from Meghan and her husband Prince Harry's former communications secretary, Jason Knauf, which suggests she suspected her father may leak its contents.

"The letter was crafted specifically with the potential of public consumption in mind because the claimant appreciated Mr Markle might disclose it to the media," he added.

Caldecott pointed to an interview given by five of her friends to the US magazine People, which her father considered to be "a serious attack on him".

Meghan "made no effort to correct" it, he added. At the original hearing, Associated argued its articles were intended to correct inaccuracies in the People interview.

Caldecott said Meghan's father had a right to reply and that she had no "reasonable expectation of privacy of the text of the letter", as it had already been widely reported.

He said Knauf's evidence cast doubt on the original ruling, adding that the case should have gone to a full trial.

- Media battle -

Lawyers for Meghan are contesting the appeal and maintain that the High Court judge made the right ruling. They said they would oppose the introduction of the Knauf evidence.

At a previous hearing, Meghan's legal team said Knauf had told them he did not write or help draft the letter.

If his submission is allowed, the duchess could also offer new evidence, they said on Tuesday.

The case, which is due to last up to three days with judgment expected at a later date, is the latest in the former television actress's long-running battle with Associated.

As well as the privacy claim, Meghan successfully sued for breach of copyright and data protection infringement.

The letter to her 77-year-old father was written a few months after her wedding to Harry, 37, who is Queen Elizabeth II's grandson.

In it, Meghan asked her father to stop talking to tabloid newspapers and making false claims about her in interviews.

Meghan and Harry have waged a high-profile war against the media, blaming intrusion for their decision to quit royal life last year and move to the United States.

But they have since attracted criticism for launching themselves into the public eye with a series of lucrative deals with firms including Spotify, Netflix and Apple TV+.

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