On Thursday, December 2, Meghan Markle celebrated a legal victory after a court upheld a previous judgement in her favor and against the publishers of The Daily Mail. Though it’s likely that the court battle will continue, the decision marks a big win for the Duchess of Sussex in her fight against British tabloids and tabloid culture in general.
“This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right,” Meghan wrote in a statement on Thursday. “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.”
This is not the first win for Meghan in this case. In February, an original summary judgement essentially found that Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher of The Daily Mail and Mail Online, had infringed on Meghan’s privacy by publishing excerpts of a private letter written to her father in August of 2018. ANL appealed that decision, arguing that the case should go to trial, but now the Court of Appeals in London has found in favor of the summary judgment. “The courts have held the defendant to account, and my hope is that we all begin to do the same,” Meghan wrote in her statement.
The victory also means that Meghan won’t be forced to testify under oath about various allegations made by ANL, which would only have fueled the intense media scrutiny of Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry. Already during the appeal, the case made headlines after Jason Knauf, Meghan’s former communications chief, testified that Meghan had instructed him in some communications with Finding Freedom authors Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie, something she had previously denied. Meghan acknowledged that she had spoken to Knauf about some things she wanted communicated to the authors of the book in a statement sent to the court in early November. “I apologize 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 part, per CNN.
ANL reportedly attempted to argue that these exchanges between Meghan and Knauf, as well as others that implied that she had anticipated that her letter to her father might leak to the press, meant that she had no expectation of privacy. It also argued that the original article, titled “Revealed: The letter showing the true tragedy of Meghan’s rift with a father she says has ‘broken her heart into a million pieces,’” had journalistic value as a response to a previous People article that mentioned a private letter between the daughter and father.
The court disagreed, pointing to the length of the excerpt and the framing of the personal letter in the original article. “The key point was that the Mail on Sunday articles focused on revealing the contents of the letter, rather than providing Mr. Markle’s response to the attack on him in People magazine,” said the presiding judge, Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls, per The Daily Beast. “Whilst it might have been proportionate to publish a very small part of the letter for that purpose, it was not necessary to publish half the contents of the letter as Associated Newspapers had done,” the judge continued.
A statement released by ANL on Thursday said that the company is “considering an appeal to the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom.” For now, however, People reported that ANL will likely have to pay Meghan damages and publish a public apology on the front page of Mail on Sunday and on the Mail Online homepage. Since the decision was announced, Mail Online has published two op-eds about the decision, including one by Piers Morgan calling Meghan “a fork-tongued devious manipulative piece of work.” So, there’s that.
Meghan may have won the battle, but the war rages on.