It has been announced that the Duchess of Sussex, Meaghan Markle, is suing the Mail on Sunday for misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.  The claim arises out of the publication by the newspaper in February 2019 of extensive extracts from a private letter written by the Duchess to her estranged father.

The proceedings have been issued in the Chancery Division by Schillings.  They described the publication of the letter as “part of a campaign by this media group to publish false and deliberately derogatory stories about her, as well as her husband”.

Prince Harry issued a strongly worded statement condemning the behaviour of the tabloid press in relation to his wife in which he said

“Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences – a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son ….

This particular legal action hinges on one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media. 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.

There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this.

Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces”.

The statement and the proceedings have been widely reported in the press with, among others, pieces on the BBC website, the Guardian. and the New York Times.

The campaign for a free and accountable press, Hacked Off, commented

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been subjected to sustained press abuse over the last 12 months. They have a right to basic standards of privacy and for reporting about them to reflect the truth; rights which elements of the press have callously disregarded in pursuit of sensational headlines.

“The Duke and Duchess have been able to afford legal action, but for every well-resourced person affected by press intrusions there are dozens who do not have the funds to seek justice through the courts. For them, there is no remedy for newspaper abuse – even if it is illegal.

“Until this Government introduces the Leveson system of independent press regulation complete with a compulsory system of arbitration to resolve cases of alleged illegality on a low-cost basis, they will continue to fail all of the victims of press abuse and deprive the public of access to justice.”

In 2006 the Duke of Sussex’s father, Prince Charles, successfully sued the same newspaper for breach of confidence and infringement of copyright as a result of the publication of extracts from his private journal.  The Prince was granted summary judgment in March 2006 by Blackburne J (HRH the Prince of Wales v Associated Newspapers Ltd ([2006] EWHC 522 (Ch)) and the Mail on Sunday’s appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal later the same year ([2008] Ch 57).