Meghan Markle awarded £450,000 in legal costs from Mail On Sunday after 'comprehensive win'

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·6-min read
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 25: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex departs after opening 'Oceania' at the Royal Academy of Arts on September 25, 2018 in London, England. 'Oceania' is the first-ever major survey of Oceanic art to be held in the United Kingdom. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex here in September 2018 in London. The duchess claimed a comprehensive victory against the Mail On Sunday. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Meghan Markle has been awarded £450,000 in legal costs as she seeks to be reimbursed for her court case against the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline.

Meghan had applied for more than £1.5m in costs, asking for half of that to be paid within the next two weeks, but a judge ruled she would have to wait for further details of the case to be resolved first.

However he agreed that Associated Newspaper Ltd (ANL) should pay 90% of the final figure. ANL had said they should only pay 75% of the costs, and tried to appeal the decision against them.

In a ruling on Tuesday, Lord Justice Warby denied ANL an appeal. But he said they could renew their bid to the Court of Appeal.

The Duchess of Sussex, 39, sued Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), the publishers of the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline, after it published extracts of a letter she wrote to her father after her wedding to Prince Harry.

She sued for invasion of privacy and breach of copyright, and declared total victory in the case when the ruling was given on 11 February, that it was "unlawful" for the newspaper to publish parts of the letter to Thomas Markle Snr.

However, the judge had ruled there may be a need for a trial in one element of the case, because Meghan's letter might have more than one copyright holder.

It could see a trial involving the so-called Palace Four in High Court - palace aides who worked with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex while they were still working royals.

The parties returned to High Court on 2 March for another virtual hearing, with Meghan's team asking for £1.5m in total costs, with £750,000 to be paid in the next two weeks.

After a series of arguments on both sides, the judge ruled that £450,000 should be paid, holding back on other cost decisions until the final rulings are made on copyright issues. The judge will rule on "financial remedies” to be granted to Meghan for misuse of private information in late April or early May at another hearing.

The duchess had asked the judge to order that copies of the letter be returned to her, electronic copies be destroyed, and that any notes on it also be deleted or destroyed. Lord Justice Warby said he would not make that order.

Meghan asked for the court to order a notice to be written in the Mail On Sunday reading: "Following a hearing on 10-20 January 2021, the Court has given judgment for The Duchess of Sussex on her claim for copyright infringement. The Court found that Associated Newspapers infringed her copyright by publishing extracts of her handwritten letter to her father in The Mail on Sunday and in Mail Online."

She wanted the notice written no later than page four in the paper, as the article printing the letter was on page four, and she requested the notice be trailed on the front page. The notice would have been "a deterrent to future infringers".

Justice Warby said he would make “a limited order for publication and dissemination” of the result of the summary judgment application, but that it would be “considerably more limited than the order sought”.

Meghan has withdrawn her request for damages, and instead is requesting a "nominal" amount, to avoid spending more time and money debating what the award should be.

In written submissions, Antony White QC, representing ANL, said this was a "radical change of position" indicating "that £1, £2 or £5 would do".

Watch: Meghan wins privacy claim against Mail On Sunday over letter to her father

Read more: The six things we learned about Harry and Meghan from his candid James Corden interview

In a statement after the judge's ruling in February, the Duchess of Sussex said: "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.

"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."

She said "we all lose when misinformation sells", but added "for today, we have all won".

"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," she said.

A spokesperson for ANL after the ruling said: “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.”

Libel and privacy lawyer Amber Melville-Brown from Withers Worldwide, told Yahoo UK: "This is not a complete slam dunk of a win, and Meghan is left with the sword of Damocles of a court appearance hanging over her head, the one thing no doubt, that she was hoping to avoid by bringing these applications.

"She will still face the pain of an uncomfortable appearance in court if the defendants are keen to investigate why, if her letter was intended to be private, she sought the assistance of advisers on its content."

The Sunday newspaper and its sister website published chunks of the letter which Meghan wrote to her father after its existence was mentioned in an interview Meghan's friends did with People magazine.

But a judge ruled that it was unnecessary to publish so much of the letter in the paper, and that Meghan had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private.

ANL had wanted the issue to go to a full trial, and would have called on Markle Snr to give evidence in the court - something he expressed a willingness to do.

However Mr Justice Warby said ANL could not have expected a different ruling in a full trial as he sided with the Duchess of Sussex's team.

The hearing continues in the High Court on 2 March.

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