Meghan’s legal action over photos of her and son Archie reaches High Court

The Duchess of Sussex’s legal action over “long lens” photographs of her and her son Archie in a Canadian park has reached the High Court in London.

At a remote hearing on Wednesday, the couple’s barrister Jonathan Barnes said Meghan and her son were “papped” by a photographer for the US arm of the Splash News and Pictures Agency.

Mr Barnes said the agency sold the images, which were taken on January 20 this year, which show the duchess walking with her son in a baby sling, and her two dogs, in Horth Hill Regional Park on Vancouver Island.

The case is being brought by Meghan in her own right and by her and her husband, the Duke of Sussex, on behalf of Archie.

The couple claim the photographs represent a misuse of Meghan and Archie’s private information and are in breach of the Data Protection Act.

They are also pursuing action against the UK arm of the agency, but sought permission at Wednesday’s hearing to serve the claim on the US-registered company which is based in Los Angeles.

Mr Barnes told the court: “In a nutshell, as a claimant lawyer, I would describe what happened to the claimants as being they were ‘papped’.

“This was without their acquiescence or consent and it is accepted that it was by an employee of the (US agency), Steve Dennett.”

Mr Barnes said the pictures were taken during “a private recreational outing on Vancouver Island”.

He added that, the day before the pictures were taken, the photographer was “at the private home of the claimants” and said he was “casing their home, testing his light meter and taking photos through the security fence, so he was not at the park by accident”.

Mr Barnes continued that Splash’s solicitors had suggested in correspondence that “the first claimant (Meghan) knew everything that was going on and was a volunteer in the sense that she carried on walking when she knew she was being photographed”.

The barrister said: “What happened immediately after the photographs were taken is that … they were immediately offered for worldwide syndication to the media and, what’s more, they were then snapped up, in particular by Associated Newspapers and News Group.”

He added: “That conduct, which is essentially the trading of the private information or the personal data, all took place here.”

Mr Barnes said this case was “not the first time” Meghan had “crossed swords” with the defendants, referring to a previous case which he described as “the Cotswolds drone episode of January 2019”.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Master Victoria McCloud gave the claimants permission to serve their case against the US arm of Splash.

The action is the latest chapter in a fractious relationship between the couple and sections of the media which began in the early period of their relationship.

Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers, publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, over publication of a letter the duchess wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.

And in May, Harry accepted substantial damages and an apology from Splash News and Picture Agency over pictures taken of his Cotswolds home from a helicopter.

The duke settled privacy and data protection claims over photographs “of and into the living area and dining area of the home and directly into the bedroom”.

Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor is the duke and duchess’s only child and has rarely been seen in public since his birth at London’s Portland Hospital on May 6 2019.

Meghan and Harry stepped down from their royal duties at the end of March and are now based in Los Angeles.