UK Gov't Reportedly Considers Changing Law on Free Speech After Meghan Markle's Victory Against ANL

© AFP 2022 / STR(FILES) In this file photo Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive for the unveiling of a plaque dedicating 20 hectares of native bush to the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy project at The North Shore Riding Club in Auckland on October 30, 2018
(FILES) In this file photo Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive for the unveiling of a plaque dedicating 20 hectares of native bush to the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy project at The North Shore Riding Club in Auckland on October 30, 2018 - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.12.2021
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In 2019, Meghan Markle sued ANL, the publisher of The Mail on Sunday, for printing excerpts of a letter the Duchess of Sussex wrote to her father Thomas. Among other things, she accused the publisher of breach of privacy. In February, a High Court sided with the royal, but ANL filed an appeal. The court again ruled in Markle's favour.
The UK government is considering changing the law on free speech following Meghan Markle's court battle against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the Daily Mail has reported, citing government sources. According to one insider, the victory against the publishers of The Mail on Sunday prompted concern about the freedom of the press and freedom of speech, with officials deeming that the judges' decision was not based on the Human Rights Act.

The source stressed that ministers would "study closely" the ruling of the Court of Appeal and then debate whether there is a need to redress the balance between privacy and free speech.

"The balance between privacy and free speech is clearly wrong. If this is what the law says then it needs to change. It feels like we have had judge-invented law. It draws on laws passed by parliament but it is not what parliament ever intended and we should correct that. The judges have created a privacy law which parliament never voted for. MPs never agreed a privacy law because they knew it would be used by the rich and famous to cover up their misdeeds", the insider told the Daily Mail.

Another insider told the newspaper that the amendment to the law could be introduced as early as next week as part of the Online Harms Bill. The source stressed that the government fears the UK may follow in the footsteps of its close ally the United States, where "justice is entirely based on the size of your wallet rather than the merits of your case".
Downing Street signalled that the government intends to look into ways to amend the law.

"We will study the implications of the judgment carefully", said a No 10 spokesman. "You have heard the prime minister say before that a free press is one of the cornerstones of any democracy, and this government recognises the vital role that newspapers and the media play in holding people to account and shining a light on the issues which matter".

Some legal experts voiced concern that any change in the law could have a detrimental effect on free speech, others noted that the amendment is needed because wealthy individuals are increasingly using the argument of violation of privacy when the press scrutinises their activities.

Rift With Father and Court Battle Against ANL

The court battle between Meghan Markle and Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher of The Mail on Sunday, is based on a rift between the Duchess of Sussex and her father Thomas that occurred in 2018. Relations between the two are said to have become tense after Mr Markle arranged a photoshoot with the tabloid, showing him getting prepared for the wedding with Prince Harry.
Thomas Markle - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.12.2021
Thomas Markle

He said he did this in order to improve his image, as previously the media had published photos of him doing menial tasks. He admitted to having lied about the photoshoot to the couple, telling them he had no agreement with the tabloid. Soon after the rift, Thomas Markle suffered a heart attack and missed his daughter's wedding. Since then, Mr Markle has repeatedly criticised his daughter and his son-in law in the media.

Three months after the solemn ceremony, Meghan Markle wrote a letter to her father in which she bemoaned his behaviour and called on him to stop attacking the couple. Thomas Markle later leaked the letter to the Daily Mail, because he wanted to address what he described as unfair media accounts about him.

"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. Please allow us to live our lives in peace. Please stop lying, please stop creating so much pain, please stop exploiting my relationship with my husband", Meghan Markle wrote to her estranged father.

The Mail on Sunday published five articles containing excerpts of the letter, prompting the Duchess of Sussex to sue ANL. She argued that the publication was a breach of her privacy and copyright infringement and that the newspaper edited the letter to portray her in a negative light. In Febuary, a judge ruled that the publication was unlawful.

Associated Newspapers Limited, however, appealed the verdict after it obtained evidence from Meghan Markle's former communications secretary, Jason Knauf, who said that prior to sending the letter to Thomas Markle the royal showed him the draft, writing: "Obviously everything I have drafted is with the understanding that it could be leaked so I have been meticulous in my word choice, but please do let me know if anything stands out for you as a liability".

Jason Knauf also stated that Meghan Markle reportedly asked him whether she should address Thomas Markle as "daddy", adding that "in the unfortunate event that it leaked, it would pull at the heartstrings".

During the three-day appeal hearing last month, ANL's lawyer, Andrew Caldecott, insisted that the previous verdict should be overturned, arguing that Meghan Markle wrote the letter "with public consumption in mind".

"We read the judgment as implicitly accepting that the letter was crafted as an intimate communication for her father's eyes only. The fundamental point turns out to be false on the new evidence. The letter was crafted specifically with the potential of public consumption in mind because the claimant appreciated Mr Markle might disclose it to the media", Mr Caldecott said.

The judges sided with Meghan Markle and upheld the previous verdict.

"The Court of Appeal upheld the judge's decision that the Duchess had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter and those contents were personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest", the judgment read.

ANL said it was disappointed with the verdict and said it intends to appeal it in the Supreme Court. Meghan Markle described the ruling as a victory for not only for herself, but "for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what's right". She also called on people not to be intimated by an industry that profits "from the lies and pain that they create".

"In the nearly three years since this began, I have been patient in the face of deception, intimidation, and calculated attacks The courts have held the defendant to account and my hope is that we all begin to do the same. Because as far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it's not. Tomorrow it could be you. These harmful practices don't happen once in a blue moon - they are a daily fail that divide us and we all deserve better", Meghan Markle wrote.

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