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High Court orders Mail on Sunday to publish Duchess of Sussex’s legal victory statement on front page

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Prince Harry marries US actress Meghan Markle in Windsor. – Reuters

The Mail On Sunday has been ordered by a High Court judge to publish a front-page statement about the Duchess of Sussex’s legal victory over its publication of a letter to her father.

Meghan’s lawyers sought an order requiring Associated Newspapers to publish a statement about her win on the front page of The Mail On Sunday and the home page of MailOnline “to act as a deterrent to future infringers”.

Lord Justice Warby agreed that the newspaper needed to carry a story about the legal victory that was in line with the prominence it afforded its original story about the letter.

On the top half of page three of the same edition, the Mail on Sunday must state that following a hearing in January, the High Court gave a judgment for the Duchess on her claim for copyright infringement.

It will also have to include the following statement: “The court found that Associated Newspapers infringed her copyright by publishing extracts of her handwritten letter to her father in The Mail On Sunday and in MailOnline.

“There will be a trial of the remedies to which the Duchess is entitled, at which the court will decide whether the Duchess is the exclusive owner of copyright in all parts of the letter, or whether any other person owns a share.”

The judge said the notice must also be published on MailOnline for one week, with a link to the court’s full ruling on Meghan’s victory – which was delivered in February.

Lord Justice Warby said he felt these were “measured incursions” into the newspaper’s freedom to decide what it publishes and does not publish.

“They will involve little if any additional expense, and certainly nothing approaching the scale of the expense that has been lavished on this litigation,” he added.

The Duchess is seeking £1.5 million in costs and also wants the newspaper to hand over any copies of the handwritten letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle, 76.

She is seeking a proportion of the company’s profits as damages.

The Duchess, 39, sued Associated Newspapers over the publication of five articles that reproduced extracts of her handwritten letter.

She was last month granted a summary judgment, a legal step that saw the privacy claim and the bulk of the copyright claim resolved in her favour without trial.

At a remote High Court hearing on Tuesday, Lord Justice Warby heard further arguments on costs and unresolved issues relating to copyright and a data protection claim.

The judge refused Associated Newspapers permission to appeal but it has since confirmed that it will apply to the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge the ruling.

The publisher listed ten grounds of appeal, raising the prospect that the case may yet go to trial.

Among them, it argued that the judge had failed to heed a precedent set in a 2013 privacy case involving the Daily Mail, Mr Johnson’s former lover, Helen Macintyre, and their then three-year-old daughter.

The judge ordered the newspaper to make an interim costs payment of £450,000 and said there should be “an account of profits” in relation to damages for the breach of copyright.

He granted the Duchess, who is expecting her second child, “a final injunction restraining misuse of private information”.

Lord Justice Warby declined to order the “delivery up or destruction” of any copies of the Duchess’s letter “at this stage”.

Robin Callender Smith, a media law professor at Queen Mary University of London and former information rights judge, said the ruling was “jaw dropping” and could have a “chilling effect” on publishers.

He said: “It is not proportionate and it does appear to be punitive, (Lord Justice Warby) says it is not, but I cannot see what else it is.

“The only way you can make a free press do anything is by consent, and this is what he appears to have lost sight of.”

He added: “If you start feeding this beast, all claimants’ solicitors are going to start looking for this as their ace remedy.”

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