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Human Rights in the UK – Meghan Markle: A case study

21 January 2020

Blog, Immigration

Much has been said about Meghan Markle in the media in the last couple of years and even more in the last week or so, and therefore it is easy to lose sight of the fact that she is a human, with human needs and wants for herself and her husband and child; and indeed, for them as a family unit.

Many think of the necessity for human rights to protect the poor, or people who have been deprived of the right to liberty through imprisonment for example. However, it is easy to see from the following, just how it can also apply to those with fame and a healthy bank balance.

Meghan Markle - A case studyWe look below at Meghan as an individual and look at the rights that she may want to rely on. These are arguably rights that are currently being infringed.

The Human Rights Act 1998 and the source of this act (the European Convention of Human Rights), which can easily be argued to be much more robust than our domestic law version, are so important to protect. It is all too easy to see how these basic rights need to be protected. Especially in a world of social media, where everyone reading and commenting feels that they have a right to an opinion on someone’s life and decisions.

Right to respect for Private and Family Life (Article 8):

This is the most obvious of the Rights, as detailed in the ECHR which might apply, and is often at the core of many cases in immigration where families may be separated, but for a UK visa. For Meghan, however, the word private is of paramount importance. Those around her, even some of those in the media who subject her to such treatment, Words have Powerwould admit that her privacy is often infringed. Not by any one individual necessarily, but by a barrage of the many interested general public, encouraged and enabled by a greedy and lucrative media machine. Often people will say that she chose to marry into the Royal Family and by its very nature, she gave up any right to privacy. Should this be the same for her son, however? Or did his father Prince Harry choose to be born into this situation where his privacy was hampered, at best, and non-existent, at worst? Is there a scenario where Harry could’ve married anyone other than Meghan and would they have had a private life or full family life?

The job for a judge in this situation would start with the question: Does she, and do they, have a right to a private life and family life? We would hope the answer to this would be affirmative. The next question might be: Is this right being infringed? One might argue it absolutely is, as I doubt many people could live under such a microscope as they must, and not let this affect their daily lives, and how they therefore treat their child and each other. The next question, determined by previous precedent case law looking at the function of Article 8, might be: Is this infringement proportionate when considering the public interest in allowing this to happen. I would say it is not. Others may disagree….

Right to Liberty and Security (Article 5):

This right may be looked at in its broadest meaning in the context of Meghan Markle’s life. Should she have to live like other senior members of the Royal Family have in the past, and perform public duties regularly, just because she married into the Family? Immigration - Human RightsOr should she, alternatively, be allowed to choose how she spends her time? Kate, for example, very quickly resumed her Royal ‘duties’ after the birth of all three children. Meghan, and indeed Kate herself, may have wished to spend more time with her young baby. As anyone with children knows, these years pass far too fast. Should this not be her choice and not the choice of the UK government, her extended (Royal) family or tradition?

The huge media and press presence and influence in their lives, can also be seen as a threat to their liberty, especially at certain times of the year and after any period of controversy. It remains a valid question as to whether this media and press influence infringes the right to liberty and whether this is a proportionate infringement when weighed against the public interest. The issue of Right to Security I deal with below due to its overlap with the Right to Life.

Prohibition of torture (Article 3):

This right includes the protection from inhumane and degrading treatment. Many would argue that this is a misapplication of this particular article, as in most cases it is held for very serious cases of physical or mental harm. Williamsons Solicitors - Civil LitigationI’m sure it could be argued by a decent Human Rights lawyer worth their salt, that some of the social media trolling, daily verbal harassment and press coverage could border on what might be called inhumane or degrading treatment and indeed Meghan and Harry have alluded to mental health problems emerging due the same. Are we really still chanting the mantra: Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me…?

Prohibition of discrimination (Article 14):

Of the many articles written recently about Meghan, some defend her position and the recent joint decision of her and her husband to step back from public office. Immigration - DiscriminationThey have spoken of the constant torment of discriminative posts and invective that particularly she has had to endure due to her race, background and the mixed race of their son. Indeed, it was less than a week after Archie had been born that Danny Baker was sacked for retweeting a racist picture depicting the Royals new born son as a monkey in a suit (!) Can we protect her and the family in general from this discrimination when it is so widespread and centres so firmly on her and them as individuals and as a family?

Right to Life (Article 2):

Now this point is obviously very much dependant on the specific facts of Meghan’s life and only she, those close to her and her security personnel would know the detail of any threats and whether these should be taken seriously. British and Canadian flagsIt is however, a factor, in relation to how she, Harry and Archie might manage their daily lives. In a sense, wherever and however they decide to live, they may never be able to get away from the fact that they will be under threat of attack by those around them. This threat can- and I’m certain does- frequently amount to threats to their lives. Do we not owe any individual, whatever they decide to do, protection from threats to their life? I guess the big question for the UK government, the Royal Family and indeed potentially the government wherever they decide to live (should they really intend to live as ordinary citizens) might be: Who pays for this protection…?  In reality, it is more likely that private protection will be organised and potentially paid for by Meghan and Harry themselves.

Freedom of expression (Article 10) and Freedom of assembly and association (Article 11):

These last rights provide possibly the weakest arguments but are still a factor when looking at the Royal Family in general and how we (as their citizens and as a collective group) expect them to behave. Happy Family - Williamsons SolicitorsDo they really have a right to say what they like? See who they like? It might be argued that they can but are they then subject to the same old judgment and social media barrage as before, which takes us back to early arguments of Article 8 and Article 3.

Whichever way you look at human rights, you can see that they are there for a reason: to protect the very basic standards of life that we should all expect to have. It can also be seen that money and fame does not necessarily guard against this, and for some at least, may make matters worse.

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