The Duchess of Sussex has won her High Court privacy claim against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday, which printed a “personal and private” handwritten letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.
In a judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Warby granted Meghan “summary judgment” in her claim for misuse of private information against Associated Newspapers Limited, which publishes the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline.
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.”
In a statement after the ruling, the duchess said she was grateful to the court for holding the publisher to account for its “illegal and dehumanising practices”.
“These tactics – and those of their sister publications MailOnline and the Daily Mail – are not new,” she said.
“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.
“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.”
The judge 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.”
Mr Justice Warby also found that the publication of the letter to Thomas Markle infringed the duchess’ copyright.
He said an electronic draft of the letter “would inevitably be held to be the product of intellectual creativity sufficient to render it original in the relevant sense and to confer copyright on its author or authors”.
The judge also found that the Mail on Sunday’s articles “copied a large and important proportion of the work’s original literary content”.
But Mr Justice Warby said issues of whether Meghan was “the sole author” – or whether Jason Knauf, formerly communications secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was a “co-author” – should be determined at a trial.