The Duchess of Sussex has been granted an interim £450,000 downpayment towards her £1.5m legal costs in her privacy case against the Mail on Sunday.
The payment follows her victory last month against Associated Newspapers Ltd, publisher of the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online, over extracts published from a private handwritten letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.
Meghan had asked for an interim payment of £750,000. She is also demanding a front-page apology, and a high court order forcing the newspaper to hand over any copies it has made of the letter, and destroy any copies of it or notes made about it.
Meghan, 39, sued ANL over five articles published in February 2019. She was granted summary judgment in relation to her privacy claim, and part of her copyright claim,
Lord Justice Warby refused ANL permission to appeal against his judgment. The publishers have the right to appeal for permission directly to the court of appeal.
At a remote hearing on Tuesday, ANL argued that Meghan’s “extremely large costs bill” of about £1.5m was disproportionate. Full costs will be decided at future hearings in the case.
Ian Mill QC, representing Meghan, argued in written submissions that ANL had “failed to deliver up copies it has of the letter such that the threat to infringe and further misuse her private information remains real and, inexplicably, the defendant has still not removed the infringing articles from Mail Online”.
He argued this was despite the judge’s ruling that found publication of the articles had infringed Meghan’s rights. “Accordingly, at the time of writing, the defendant defiantly continues to do the very acts which the court has held are unlawful.”
He also sought an order requiring ANL to publish a front-page statement in the MoS about Meghan’s legal victory, as well as on the home page of Mail Online “to act as a deterrent to future infringers”. A decision will be made at a late date.
Meghan has indicated she is willing to cap her damages to a “nominal award” – a token sum – for misuse of private information to save time and cost debating the issue, the court heard.
She had asked for ANL to pay £750,000 within two weeks as “an interim payment on account” to cover legal costs of bringing the claim.
Antony White QC representing ANL, said his client planned to appeal against the summary judgment ruling, arguing that it “would have a real prospect of success”.
ANL had resolved to take down the articles pending any appeal, the judge heard. The publisher said the declaration Meghan wanted it to publish was not accurate, and erroneously stated she had won her whole claim rather than the fact that summary judgment had been given on parts of her claim, with other parts still to be determined.
There had been worldwide reporting of the duchess’s success in her privacy claim and it did not need a declaration as suggested, White said.
Any order requiring ANL to hand over any copies of Meghan’s letter to her father should be put on hold until any appeal against last month’s judgment could be determined, added White.
Warby ruled that any “financial remedies’’ to be granted to Meghan for misuse of private information would be considered at a further hearing in late April or early May. The judge said that hearing would also deal with Meghan’s claim under the Data Protection Act, as well as “the issue of copyright ownership’’
Last month, Warby ruled that the publication of Meghan’s letter to her father was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”. He said: “It was, in short, a personal and private letter” and these were “inherently private and personal matters”.
The handwritten letter was sent to her estranged father, 76-year-old Thomas Markle, in August 2018.
The duchess claimed the five articles published in February 2019 involved a misuse of her private information, breached her copyright and breached the Data Protection Act.
The judge has said the issue of whether Meghan was “the sole author” – or whether Jason Knauf, formerly communications secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was a “co-author” – should be determined at a trial, despite being one “of minor significance in the overall context”.