Meghan denounces companies for profiting from ‘people’s pain’ as she wins claim

Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent
·4-min read

The Duchess of Sussex has suggested her High Court privacy claim win against The Mail On Sunday was a victory for all “because we all deserve justice and truth, and we all deserve better”.

Meghan issued a deeply personal statement after the judgment, thanking husband Harry, her mother Doria Ragland and her legal team for their “unrelenting support” that followed “two long years of pursuing litigation”.

Commenting on the toll of being the subject of what she claimed was The Mail On Sunday’s “illegal and dehumanising practices” the duchess said: “The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep”.

Meghan thanked Harry for his support during the legal process. Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Meghan thanked Harry for his support during the legal process (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

She added: “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.”

Meghan, 39, sued Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, over a series of articles which reproduced parts of a letter sent to her 76-year-old father Thomas Markle in August 2018.

She is seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act over five articles published in February 2019, which included extracts from the “private and confidential” letter.

The language of the duchess’ statement is reminiscent of others made by the Sussexes or their representatives about the media.

In the early days of Harry and Meghan’s relationship the duke attacked the press over its “abuse and harassment” of his then girlfriend.

Meghan, pictured with Harry in the Nyanga Township in Cape Town, launched her legal action while in South Africa. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Meghan, pictured with Harry in the Nyanga Township in Cape Town, launched her legal action while in South Africa (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Kensington Palace warned on his behalf in 2016: “This is not a game – it is her life and his.”

The emotional turmoil the couple were feeling that eventually led to them stepping down as senior royals and moving to the US became apparent at the end of their tour of southern Africa in the autumn of 2019.

In a documentary interview given in Africa, Meghan admitted to feeling vulnerable, and spoke of the difficulty of coping with intense tabloid interest, saying: “It’s not enough to just survive something, that’s not the point of life.

“You have got to thrive.”

The couple’s high-profile visit was overshadowed on the penultimate day when the duke condemned the British tabloid press for bullying his wife, as Meghan launched her lawsuit against Associated Newspapers.

Harry released a scathing attack on the tabloids, in which he heavily criticised certain sections of the media for conducting what he called a “ruthless campaign” against his wife.

Harry and Meghan pictured with son Archie during their tour of southern Africa. Toby Melville/PA Wire
Harry and Meghan pictured with son Archie during their tour of southern Africa (Toby Melville/PA)

“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces,” he said.

Harry was only 12 when Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a crash after her car, driven at speed by a drunk chauffeur, was chased through the streets of Paris by the paparazzi.

After the Sussexes announced their bombshell plan to quit as senior royals, Harry described the media as a “powerful force” and said he wanted his family to have a “more peaceful” life.

The duchess said in her statement: “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 dehumanising 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.

Harry and Meghan have been living in America for almost a year after stepping down as senior royals. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Harry and Meghan have been living in America for almost a year after stepping down as senior royals (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“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.”

Meghan’s lawyers argued, at a hearing in January, that ANL has “no prospect” of defending her claim for misuse of private information and breach of copyright.

They asked the High Court to grant “summary judgment” in relation to those claims, a legal step which would see those parts of the case resolved without a trial.

In a judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Warby ruled that the publication of Meghan’s letter to her father was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”.