Lawyers representing the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have issued warnings to outlets purchasing and publishing recent paparazzi photos of Meghan. The photos that spurred this action were of Meghan walking her dogs Guy and Oz and carrying the couple’s son Archie at Horth Hill Regional Park in Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island was the couple’s base during the holiday season. It is located in the province of British Columbia which has a provincial law allowing individuals to sue for invasion of privacy. Privacy matters are governed by a combination of provincial and national law, as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Because Canada does not have the same celebrity and paparazzi culture as the United States and the United Kingdom, Harry and Meghan’s arrival could present the first major legal test to both national and provincial laws around paparazzi and invasion of privacy.
According to the letter Harry and Meghan’s lawyers sent, the couple alleges paparazzi took the recent photos of Meghan and her son without her consent and were taken surreptitiously by photographers hiding in bushes. The couple’s lawyers characterise these actions as harassment. The letter further states that attempts have been made to photograph inside the couple’s home in Vancouver Island using long-range lenses and that photographers have camped outside the property to try to obtain photos. While no legal action has been taken yet, the letter makes clear that if these methods are used in the future, the couple will pursue legal action against both the photographers and outlets who publish the photos.
The Duke and Duchess previously took action against Splash News in 2019 when they used aerial methods to take photos of the exterior and interior of their Cotswolds Home. Splash agreed to no longer sell or publish the photos, to cease using aerial means to obtain photos on private property, and to issue an apology for their “error in judgment”. Harry and Meghan were awarded monetary damages at the time which went to legal fees and charity.
Harry and Meghan’s previous legal actions were all handled in courts in the United Kingdom. The move to Canada means new laws surrounding privacy and the press so the laws and limits haven’t been as clearly defined and tested yet. What is clear is that this action is consistent with the couple’s stated new media policy. That policy says in part that “Their Royal Highnesses recognise that their roles as members of the Royal Family are subject to interest, and they welcome accurate and honest media reporting as well as being held to account if appropriate. Equally, like every member of society, they also value privacy as individuals and as a family.” This media policy will be tested and more clearly defined in recent months as the couple transition to their new life as private citizens who are no longer working members of the Royal Family.