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Court hands Meghan Markle a huge legal victory in privacy battle with British newspaper

Meghan Markle wins privacy case
Meghan Markle wins privacy case 02:48

London — A U.K. court has handed a stunning legal victory to Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, ruling that the owner of the Mail on Sunday violated her right to privacy by publishing extracts of a personal letter she wrote to her father after she married Prince Harry. Meghan said she was grateful that the tabloid was being held accountable for what she called "dehumanizing practices."

As CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports, the case highlights some significant differences between privacy laws in Britain and the U.S.

A U.K. High Court judge said in a ruling issued on Thursday that publishing portions of the letter was a "manifestly excessive and thus unlawful" breach of privacy. Meghan called the decision "a comprehensive win."

"For these outlets, it's a game. For me and so many others, it's real life, real relationships, and very real sadness," she said in a statement. "The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep."

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The ruling underscores a growing schism between British and American privacy laws, according to media lawyer Mark Stephens. Had the letter been published in the U.S., he says, Meghan wouldn't even have had a case.

"What we're seeing is London becoming the privacy capital of the world," he told CBS News. "I think what it will mean is that American media have an advantage, they'll be reporting more, the public will learn more, and citizens from this country will start looking to America in order to get the unvarnished news."

The case is centered on a personal letter that Meghan sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, after his no-show at her Royal Wedding. She accused him in the private correspondence of breaking her heart for talking to British tabloids.

The judge's ruling avoids what might have been a messy public trial pitting Meghan against her father in court.

Britain Meghan Lawsuit
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, arrive at the annual Endeavour Fund Awards in London, March 5, 2020. Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

"I know at Buckingham Palace, there is relief," The Sunday Times royal correspondent Royya Nikkhah told CBS News on Friday. "they never wanted this to go all the way to trial because it would have put Meghan on the stand, royal aids on the stand, and what would have come out then would have been incredibly damaging."

Buckingham Palace declined to issue any comment on the ruling in the Duchess' case.

It's still an open question whether the court's decision will serve as a warning shot to certain sectors of the British media that have capitalized on overwhelmingly negative coverage of Prince Harry's marriage to the American actress.

The Mail on Sunday's publishers said they were surprised and disappointed by the decision, and they're considering whether to appeal.

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