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Kristy Ainge

Kristy Ainge

Associate Solicitor Advocate – Litigation

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Duchess of Sussex wins Privacy Case against The Mail on Sunday

You will have heard in the news that the Duchess of Sussex has won part of her privacy case against the Mail on Sunday Newspaper. 

Meghan sued Associated Newspapers Limited (“ANL”), the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline over a series of articles which reproduced large parts of a letter that Meghan sent to her father in August 2018.

She is seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

Meghan’s lawyers brought an application for Summary Judgment and in his Judgment on 11 February 2021, Mr Justice Warby said that on the whole the disclosures were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful. However, Meghan must face a full trial if she wants to challenge the issue of copyright of her letter to her father. A trial is something the Palace are incredibly nervous about and a hearing to decide matters on the copyright claim is fixed for 2 March.  

Summary judgment is a tool used in litigation to ask the courts to resolve a claim, or parts of claim, without the need to go to trial. An applicant (i.e. Meghan in this case) needs to show that the other party has no real prospect of succeeding and there is no other compelling reason for a trial. 

Meghan’s barrister argued that “there is no real prospect of the defendant establishing that the claimant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the contents of the letter and the defendant’s contentions to the contrary are utterly fanciful.”

Therefore, the tool used by Meghan’s lawyers has enabled her to avoid a trial in respect of the misuse of private information element of her claim, and be given judgment in her favour, with damages to yet be assessed and awarded. 

It is important for lawyers to consider this at an early stage of receiving and dealing with any claim, which could avoid a lengthy court process and costs, where it seems the other parties case is so weak, they have no prospect of succeeding.

Kristy Ainge