The Duchess of Sussex has issued proceedings against Associated Newspapers, the parent company of the Mail on Sunday, for misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018. At the same time, Prince Harry launched a blistering attack on the media.
The claim stems from the publication of extracts from a private, handwritten letter from Meghan Markle to her father, first published in the Mail on Sunday in February 2019. In Prince Harry’s statement he alleges that ‘the contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question. In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year.’ A spokesperson for the newspaper has confirmed that the paper will ‘be defending this case vigorously’.
Since beginning her relationship with Prince Harry, Ms Markle has been subject to intense press intrusion, especially by the British tabloid media. In 2016, just a few months into their relationship, Prince Harry issued a statement confirming that Ms Markle had been subject to a ‘wave of abuse and harassment’ and asked that the press reflect on the damage caused by their very public smear campaign against Ms Markle. It nevertheless has self-evidently continued despite that warning shot.
In Prince Harry’s statement he states that the publication of Meghan’s private letter is an escalation of a ‘ruthless campaign’ that has become considerably worse of the last 12 months. He refers to her as “one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences”. It was hoped that the Leveson Inquiry would continue once criminal investigations had concluded. Instead, the Government scrapped it and then limited press victims’ ability to obtain representation through the abolition of the recovery of success fees. The behaviour of the tabloid press has predictably continued to worsen.
Separately, Prince Harry and Meghan spoke candidly in an emotional TV interview broadcast on Sunday 20 October 2019 on ITV about their struggles with British tabloid media. This is an unusual move from members of the Royal family who usually keep the personal grievances private. Meghan explained that she was warned by a friend that ‘the British tabloid will destroy [her] life’. When asked about the newspaper coverage Meghan explained that ‘[she] never thought it would be easy but [she] thought it would be fair.’ The documentary focuses on the problems the couple have had with the significant press intrusion into their lives and the subsequent impact on their mental health.
In addition, Ben Stokes and his mother have launched a privacy action against the publisher of The Sun.
Hamlins LLP continue to act for victims of the press – those in the public eye through virtue of their careers but also those who find themselves unwillingly thrust into the media spotlight. If you have a query as to whether we might be able to assist you then please get in touch with Callum Galbraith.