Ministers are contemplating altering the law to protect free speech after the Appeal Court ruled in support of the Duchess of Sussex in a privacy row against a newspaper outlet.
Downing Street said publicly that ministers would study closely a ruling which upheld the High Court’s ruling that Meghan had a reasonable expectation of privacy over a letter written to her estranged father Thomas Markle.
But senior figures in Government went further and told a newspaper outlet that a change in the law may now be required to rectify the balance between the competing rights of privacy and free speech.
Legal experts have said the case could have a chilling impact on free speech.
A Cabinet minister told the newspaper outlet that judges in the case seemed to have gone far beyond what Parliament intended when including a right to private life in the Human Rights Act, and gave too little weight to the right to freedom of expression, which was also included in the law.
The source said the judges had created a privacy law that Parliament never voted for and that MPs never agreed to a privacy law because they knew it would be used by the rich and famous to cover up their transgressions.
The source said that the balance between privacy and free speech was definitely wrong, and if this is what the law says then it needed to change, and that it felt like this was a judge invented law, and that it draws on laws enacted by Parliament but it’s not what Parliament ever intended and it should be changed.
Downing Street also hinted at action, and asked whether the Prime Minister thought the judges were getting the balance right between privacy and free speech, a No 10 spokesperson told reporters that they would examine the implications of the judgement thoroughly.
And that you’ve heard the Prime Minister say before that a free Press was one of the foundations of any democracy, and this Government understands the important role that newspapers and the media play in holding people to account and shining a light on the issue which matters.
The spokesperson said he couldn’t get into the hypotheticals about what action the Government might take, but a Whitehall source said ministers might consider changing the law to protect free speech in light of the judgement.
The source said the feeling of a lot of people in Government is that something has gone too far, and that individual judges are making large pieces of case law without reference to Parliament, and that’s troubling.
In the end, if this goes through, all our private letters and emails will be made public, maybe even recordings we’ve made. Maybe we’ll even have a Snoopers Charter, but do we really want our entire private life on display?