Meghan Markle vs The Red Tops

In this article, we look at which leading media and defamation lawyers the Duchess of Sussex has been turning to in her privacy case against the UK tabloid press.

Published on 9 March 2021
Written by James Cowdell
James Cowdell

The Duchess and Duke of Sussex speak

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, has, alongside her husband Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, have recently been involved in a high profile privacy case in the High Court in relation to misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act. In this article, we delve behind the scenes and spotlight the leading Chambers-ranked media and defamation lawyers the couple have engaged to represent them.

The action and the application

The Duchess of Sussex's recently took on Associated Newspapers in the High Court in a case heard before Mr Justice Warby. The matter centred around five pieces published in February 2019 via Mail Online and in the Mail on Sunday, stories which included the publication of a handwritten letter Meghan Markle had sent to her father in an attempt to dissuade him from speaking to the press about her.

The claim hinged on issues relating to the misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

The enlisting of the UK's top barristers

Assembling a formidable legal team, the Duchess of Sussex engaged leading defamation and media barristers from top Chambers including Ian Mill KC (Blackstone Chambers), Justin Rushbrooke KC (5RB), Jane Phillips (5RB) and Jessie Bowhill (8 New Square).

These individuals are all highly respected figures in the media and defamation worlds and feature in the Chambers UK Bar rankings. Together they succeeded in persuading Mr Justice Warby to settle the case by summary judgement (thereby avoiding a full hearing) and rule in Meghan Markle's favour in finding that the disclosures from her letter to her father were manifestly excessive and hence unlawful. As Warby said: "The claimant had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private. TheMail articles interfered with that reasonable expectation."

The case raises some interesting points. Leading media and defamation claimant lawyers hail it as a boon to high profile media figures seeking to protect their privacy. Publishers and those that advise them, however, warn that the fact that the case didn't go to a full trial may usher in a new era of judge-made privacy law in the UK. Over the next few years it will be interesting to see how cases in the defamation and privacy arena pan out. Busy and fascinating times could be ahead.

Those seeking to find out more about the individuals Meghan Markle hired in her case against Associated Newspapers can do so by reading the Defamation/Privacy and Media and Entertainment sections of Chambers UK Bar.

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