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Meghan Markle wins bid to avoid High Court trial in privacy case

Justice Warby delivered his ruling on Thursday

meghan privacy case
Danielle Stacey
Danielle StaceyOnline Royal CorrespondentLondon
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The Duchess of Sussex has won her High Court privacy claim against the Mail on Sunday over the publication of a "personal and private" handwritten letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.

In a statement, Meghan thanked husband Harry and her mother Doria Ragland for their support, and said she is "grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and The Mail on Sunday to account for their illegal and dehumanizing practices".

The Duchess, 39, sued ANL, publishers of MailOnline and Mail On Sunday, for breach of copyright, infringement of her privacy, and breaches of the Data Protection Act over articles which showed parts of a letter she had written to her father, 76-year-old Thomas Markle, in August 2018.

READ: Meghan Markle joins Prince Harry for first public appearance of the year - see stunning pics

WATCH: Meghan Markle wins bid to avoid High Court trial in privacy case

In a judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Warby granted Meghan "summary judgment" in her claim for misuse of private information against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline over the publication of a letter to her father, Thomas Markle.

The judge said: "The claimant had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private. The Mail articles interfered with that reasonable expectation."

He said that "the only tenable justification for any such interference was to correct some inaccuracies about the letter", contained in an article in People magazine which featured an interview with five friends of Meghan.

But Mr Justice Warby added: "The inescapable conclusion is that, save to the very limited extent I have identified, the disclosures made were not a necessary or proportionate means of serving that purpose.

"For the most part they did not serve that purpose at all. Taken as a whole the disclosures were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful."

MORE: Prince Harry and Meghan congratulate Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank on royal baby's arrival

MORE: Fans all saying same thing about Prince Harry and Meghan's latest appearance

harry meghan commonwealth arrival© Photo: Getty Images

Harry and Meghan stepped back from royal duties last March

In relation to Meghan’s copyright claim, Mr Justice Warby found that the publication of the letter did infringe her copyright.

But the judge said the issue of whether Meghan was "the sole author" of the letter or Jason Knauf, formerly communications secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was a "co-author" should be determined at a trial.

Mr Justice Warby said that there would be a further hearing in March to decide "the next steps" in the legal action.

A spokesperson for ANL said: "We are very surprised by today's summary judgment and disappointed at being denied the chance to have all the evidence heard and tested in open court at a full trial.

"We are carefully considering the judgment's contents and will decide in due course whether to lodge an appeal."

A full trial had originally been due to take place at the High Court in January, but last year the case was adjourned until autumn 2021 for a "confidential" reason.

The Duchess of Sussex's statement in full

In a statement, regarding the outcome, the Duchess of Sussex said: "After two long years of pursuing litigation, I am grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and The Mail on Sunday to account for their illegal and dehumanizing practices.

"These tactics (and those of their sister publications MailOnline and the Daily Mail) are not new; in fact, they've been going on for far too long without consequence. For these outlets, it's a game. For me and so many others, it's real life, real relationships, and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep. 

meghan harry endeavour fund© Photo: Getty Images

Meghan thanked her husband Harry and mother for their support

"The world needs reliable, fact-checked, high-quality news. What The Mail on Sunday and its partner publications do is the opposite. We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency, and when companies create their business model to profit from people’s pain.

"But for today, with this comprehensive win on both privacy and copyright, we have all won. We now know, and hope it creates legal precedent, that you cannot take somebody's privacy and exploit it in a privacy case, as the defendant has blatantly done over the past two years. 

"I share this victory with each of you - because we all deserve justice and truth, and we all deserve better. 

"I particularly want to thank my husband, mom, and legal team, and especially Jenny Afia for her unrelenting support throughout this process."

rcj© Photo: Getty Images

The summary judgment has been granted 

On 1 February, the Duke of Sussex accepted an apology and "substantial damages" from ANL over "baseless, false and defamatory" allegations that he snubbed the Royal Marines after stepping down as a senior royal.

A spokesman for Prince Harry at the time said that he is personally donating the damages from the case to the Invictus Games Foundation.

The Sussexes made their first public appearance of 2021, when they surprised a poetry class over the weekend. 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took the time out to honor Black History Month and show their support for Get Lit, which is a literary group that describes its work as empowering youth and emboldening communities.

harry meghan zoom appearance poetry© Photo: Instagram

Meghan and Harry stunned the Get Lit poetry class 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are now living in Montecito, Santa Barbara in the US with their one-year-old son Archie after stepping back from royal duties in March 2020. 

Over the past year, the couple have set up their own production company and signed a deal with Netflix. They have also launched the website for their non-profit charitable organisation Archewell, as well as their first podcast series Archewell Audio.

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