Meghan Markle Wins Privacy Case Against U.K. Tabloid: 'We All Deserve Justice and Truth'
The Duchess of Sussex has won her claim against the Mail on Sunday's publishers after a British judge granted summary judgment in her favor over five articles published in February 2019 that reproduced parts of the handwritten letter she sent her father, Thomas Markle, following her royal wedding to Prince Harry in May 2018.
Judge Mark Warby said Meghan "had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private. The Mail articles interfered with that reasonable expectation."
Judge Warby also ruled that the Mail had infringed on the copyright in the letter, leaving open only the question of whether the Duchess of Sussex was the sole owner of the copyright or might have been a co-author due to alleged involvement by others in the letter's editing—a point pressed by the Mail, but which the judge described as occupying "the shadowland between improbability and unreality."
Warby directed that a hearing to decide the outstanding matters raised in Thursday's judgment will take place on March 2, and indicated that the open copyright question would likely only have an impact on the size of the money damages the Duchess will receive. A third part of the case, addressing alleged data privacy violations, has not yet been addressed.
"At worst, therefore, the claimant is a co-author of a work of joint authorship, and entitled to relief for infringement of her share in the copyright," Warby said on Thursday. "There is no room for doubt that the defendant's conduct involved an infringement of copyright in the Electronic Draft of which the claimant was the owner or, at worst, a co-owner."
In response to the Thursday ruling, Meghan said that she was "grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and The Mail on Sunday to account."
"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," the Duchess of Sussex added in her written statement.
"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.
"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."
A spokesperson for the Mail on Sunday told PEOPLE in a statement, "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."
In October, Meghan won her bid to have her trial, which was originally scheduled to start on Jan. 11, pushed back to the fall of 2021. Justice Warby said his ruling was based on "confidential grounds" submitted by Meghan's legal team during a closed hearing. A trial would have potentially set Meghan up against her father in a courtroom in London.
During the summary judgment hearing in January, Meghan's attorney, Justin Rushbrooke, argued that Meghan's letter to her father was "intrinsically private, personal and sensitive" and that printing extracts of the letter constituted "a triple-barrelled invasion of her privacy rights."
It was "a heartfelt plea from an anguished daughter to her father," Rushbrooke added.