Mail on Sunday to use public interest defence in Meghan legal claim

Mail on Sunday to use public interest defence in Meghan legal claim

The Mail on Sunday will argue there is a huge public interest in the personal relationships of members of the royal family as part of the paper’s defence against a legal claim by the Duchess of Sussex.

High Court documents, seen by the BBC, suggest the paper will claim Meghan and other royals “rely on publicity about themselves and their lives to maintain the privileged positions they hold”.

The duchess launched a legal action against the newspaper in October over an allegation it unlawfully published a letter to her father.

Law firm Schillings, representing the duchess, filed a High Court claim against the paper and its parent company Associated Newspapers over the alleged misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.

But in its legal defence the paper claims the duchess “did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy that the contents of the letter were private and would remain so”, according to the BBC.

In the documents, the Mail on Sunday also argued the publication of the letter was lawful because there is a “legitimate public interest” in the “conduct and standards” of royals extending to their personal and family relationships.

It comes just 24 hours after the Queen agreed Harry and Meghan could step back as senior royals and begin a “new life” as an “independent” family.

Buckingham Palace also confirmed the Sussexes would begin a “transition period” in which they would split their time between the UK and Canada, where the Duchess is currently with their son Archie.

Meghan is in Canada with their son Archie (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Meghan is in Canada with their son Archie (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

In February, the Mail on Sunday published extracts of Meghan’s handwritten letter to her estranged father Thomas Markle.

In one extract, published by the newspaper, the duchess wrote: “Your actions have broken my heart into a million pieces – not simply because you have manufactured such unnecessary and unwarranted pain, but by making the choice to not tell the truth as you are puppeteered in this. Something I will never understand.”

Mr Markle was caught up in controversy in the build-up to the 2018 wedding after he allegedly staged paparazzi photographs of himself and then began commenting regularly to entertainment website TMZ about his contact with his daughter.

When the legal action was announced in October, Harry claimed the alleged unlawful publication of the private letter was done in “an intentionally destructive manner” to “manipulate” readers.

In a statement released at the time, a spokeswoman for law firm Schillings claimed the “intrusive” publication of the letter was part of Associated Newspaper’s campaign to write “false and deliberately derogatory stories about” Meghan, “as well as her husband”.

But the Mail on Sunday said it would stand by the story and denied editing the letter to change its meaning.

Meanwhile, it was revealed on Tuesday the duchess did not join the royal summit with the Queen and senior royals by phone and instead relied on her husband to put forward their case.

The move has raised questions over the costs of the couple’s security during their time in North America and who would foot the bill.

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said the costs, and what role they will play in Canadian life, would be the subject of future discussions.

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