/How much privacy can Harry and Meghan expect?

How much privacy can Harry and Meghan expect?

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan pictured with their baby son, ArchieImage copyright
PA Media

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Meghan returned to Canada last week

Within hours of Prince Harry arriving in Canada to join his wife for the start of a new life away from royal duties, the couple issued a legal warning about media intrusion.

Pictures of Meghan walking her dogs while carrying her son Archie in a baby sling were published in newspapers and on websites. Lawyers said they were taken without her consent, by photographers hiding in bushes.

The couple say they want a different relationship with the media now they’ve stepped back from their life as senior royals. But have the rules changed? And what can they expect now that they’ve left the UK?

How much privacy can the couple expect?

Not much, according to Ingrid Seward, a royal biographer and editor of Majesty Magazine. She says she’s surprised the couple weren’t expecting the paparazzi to follow them to Canada.

“Of course the safest place for Harry and Meghan to be is in the UK,” she told Radio 4’s PM programme. “They haven’t been papped once since their marriage, and if they have been, no pictures have been printed.

“Those rules don’t apply in Canada. The paps can come from all over the world and lie in wait for them.”

The couple are believed to be alarmed by press activity near their current base on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Their lawyers say there have been attempts to photograph inside their home using long-range lenses and they accuse the paparazzi of being camped outside the property.

PR and media expert Rebecca May says that without the long-standing “gentleman’s” agreement between the Palace and the UK media to avoid using paparazzi photos, Harry and Meghan “will have to navigate their way through this new world without that protection”.

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The press have descended on Vancouver Island, near where the couple are believed to be staying

The CHEK news service, based in Vancouver Island, was one of the outlets which decided not to use the photo – taken in Horth Hill Regional Park – that prompted the legal warning.

Its news editor, Scott Fee, says he spoke to the photographer responsible who defended it, saying it was taken on public property.

He told BBC Breakfast: “That’s [the photographer’s] version. He said Meghan didn’t hide from the shot, she gave me a smile, she didn’t prevent it from happening – those are his words. If that’s how it played out – it’s hard to say.”

Mr Fee says his publication chose not to use the pictures, which appeared on the front page of the Sun, because they had to listen to their audience, who tend to be really protective of the couple.

He adds: “We do want to respect what the couple are saying as well. We’re not looking to be intrusive, we’re not looking to stalk the couple.”

However, he does acknowledge that his organisation will be closely following the story as it “unfolds in our own backyard”.

What’s the couple’s relationship with the media?

Prince Harry has long had an uneasy relationship with the media, having grown up aware of the impact the intense media interest had on the life of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

She died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi on motorbikes.

The prince has often compared his wife’s experiences of the press with those of his late mother.

In 2016, Prince Harry attacked the media for subjecting Meghan – then his girlfriend – to a “wave of abuse and harassment”.

Last year, Harry accepted damages and an apology from a news agency which used a helicopter to take photographs of the inside of his home in the Cotswolds.

The duchess is currently suing the Mail on Sunday over publishing one of her private letters to her father, Thomas Markle, accusing the paper of misusing her private information, breaching copyright and selective editing.

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Meghan has had close ties to Canada for many years, although she is an American citizen by birth

Days after confirming his wife’s legal case, the duke announced he would take legal action against the owners of the Sun, the defunct News of the World, and the Daily Mirror, in relation to alleged phone-hacking.

In his statement last October, the prince singled out Britain’s tabloid newspapers, saying that they had ruined his mother’s life and he wouldn’t let them ruin his wife’s.

BBC media editor Amol Rajan says the way to stay out of the media is not to be too interesting, adding that recent events have, ironically, seen interest in the Sussexes “radically increase”.

He says: “If you want to stay out of the media, it’s not about where you are, it’s about who you are and what you do.

“There is something desperately sad for the couple in the fact that, even in North America, you cannot get away from scrutiny – given that every passer-by has a smartphone.”

Don’t the couple need publicity for their careers?

Under their new arrangement with the royal family, Harry and Meghan will stop receiving public funds for royal duties.

However, the couple will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations, while they have previously said they plan to launch a new “charitable entity”.

PR and media expert Rebecca May says it is crucial that the couple’s advisers “guide them through this new maze and keep Canada’s press on side to help with this transition period”.

She says: “After all, to raise awareness for their charities and causes they need the media to spread the word. Therefore the key is to set boundaries and stick to them.

“Be up front and open with the press and they will be respectful if they know what rules you play by.”

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Downtown Eastside Women’s Center

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The Duchess of Sussex visited a women’s centre in Vancouver last week

She anticipates “a bumpy ride” for at least the next 12 months for the couple, adding that it will also very much depend on their next career moves.

“Inevitably, I don’t see their move to Canada helping them stay out of the media spotlight in the short to medium term, however, in the long term it could be a good move for them.”

Newspapers have claimed that Harry appeared to tout Meghan for voiceover work with Disney at the Lion King premiere in July.

The couple have previously looked to capitalise on the Sussex Royal brand – lodging an application to trademark the name in June last year, covering items such as books, calendars, clothing, charitable fundraising and campaigning.

It raised the possibility of Prince Harry and Meghan launching their own lines of products, from beauty to clothing – however the agreement with the Queen has cast doubt on that idea.

A brand incorporating the word “royal” may not be compatible with their agreement to step back from royal duties.

How does the law in the UK compare to Canada?

In the UK, you can generally take pictures of people in public spaces without permission. But there could be circumstances where it is not allowed, for example if the person was in an area where they reasonably expected privacy or your actions amounted to harassment.

Canadian privacy laws are similar to those in the UK, but there are also provincial statutes in Canada.

In the province of British Columbia, where Prince Harry and Meghan are staying, a separate Privacy Act is in force. In a public place, there may be a limited expectation of privacy under certain circumstances.

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Getty Images

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Scores of photographers followed Meghan at official events in the UK

Canadian media lawyer Dan Burnett has worked on a number of privacy cases in the province and says the key question for the courts is whether there is “a reasonable expectation of privacy”.

He says: “Factors such as children and surreptitious photography would be important considerations supporting the potential claim in Meghan’s case.

“The fact it was in a public place would lean the other way, but if the photographers were hiding, that suggests they knew she considered it a safe, private space at the time.”

However, there is still a public interest exemption in Canada which could be used by journalists and photographers in some cases. A court considering a case would also have to take freedom of the press into account.

The privacy laws in Canada haven’t been as stringently tested as in the UK – with there being less of a paparazzi culture – so it is unclear what scenarios would amount to an invasion of privacy.

In the UK, privacy rights began to change with the passage of the Human Rights Act in 1998, which introduced a right to “respect for private and family life”.

The result has been a series of rulings against the media, such as Max Mosley who successfully sued the News of the World for breach of privacy, after it had published pictures of him with five sex workers.

Sir Cliff Richard used the same privacy law in 2018 to win his case against the BBC, which had showed helicopter footage of a police raid on his home.

What is the global interest in royal pictures?

Rebecca May says Prince Harry and Meghan’s move to Canada is drawing press attention from “all across the globe” and exclusive paparazzi photos could be “worth hundreds of thousands of pounds”.

She says: “There are extreme lengths photographers may go to to get ‘the photo’. You can expect bidding wars for exclusive images.”

Press intrusion is not a new problem for the royals, as Meghan’s sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, would testify.

In 2017, Catherine was awarded £92,000 in damages after a French magazine printed topless pictures of her in 2012.

At the time of the judgement, BBC Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield said the guilty verdict was not a surprise, adding “it’s almost a game these magazine play”.

He said: “They get the fines but they think it’s worth it – they get the extra sales from the photographs they publish.”

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Getty Images

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The paparazzi were accused of harassing two-year-old Prince George in 2015

And the paparazzi have also targeted the royals’ children, In 2015, Kensington Palace issued an appeal to world media not to publish unauthorised images of two-year-old Prince George.

The palace said some paparazzi had gone to “extreme lengths” to take pictures and “a line has been crossed”.

A small number of media organisations, mostly in Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand and the US, had published photos of Prince George in “unacceptable circumstances”, it said.

However the palace said the “vast majority” – and all UK publications – had refused.

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