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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Who is Jenny Afia, the new face of Harry and Meghan’s defence?

As one of the country’s leading lawyers, ranked as a “tier 1 leader in her field” by Chambers & Partners, the Spear’s Reputation Management index, as well as being recognised in Billboard’s 2021 Top Music Lawyers, it is clear that Afia isn’t phased by representing the rich and famous. Indeed, the former Young Solicitor of the Year appeared in her own Vogue shoot in 2017 and even features in a poster that can be bought on Amazon.

It must have greatly appealed that the Cambridge graduate had also made a name for herself taking on the online giants, as a member of the Children’s Commissioner’s Digital Task Force.

The “likeable, lovely and bright” lawyer – as she was called in a Tatler profile – was also on the Steering Committee of children’s charity 5Rights and co-authored with Baroness Kidron the report: ‘Disrupted Childhood: the cost of persuasive design’ as well as being a member of the UK advisory board for Common Sense Media, a non-profit committing to “build a digital world where our kids can thrive”.

Here, then, is a woman very much speaking the Sussexes’ language when it comes to social media abuse and online safety. But crucially, she also has a fearsome reputation for taking on the mainstream media that Harry and Meghan so love to hate – despite being married to a journalist, Richard Ferrer, editor of the Jewish News.

Take a piece that Afia wrote for the Huffington Post in 2016, in which she called out the “unscrupulous tactics” of the paparazzi and the “underhand methods English newspapers still resort to to gain scoops”.

Describing intrusion into the Royals’ family life as “real and unjustified”, she appeared to preempt Harry’s sentiments later that year, when he instructed Knauf to release a statement complaining about the treatment of his then-girlfriend Meghan saying: “This is not a game – it is her life and his.”

Afia has become a defender of celebrities’ right not to appear in the newspapers. As she writes on her LinkedIn page: “I help people in the public eye protect their privacy and reputations against arbitrary interference. I believe that privacy is precious and people don’t give up their rights just because they’ve achieved professional success.”

Describing how she has worked at the firm since 2006, having previously trained in the City, she adds: “I’ve been a Schillings partner since 2012; a fact I try to slip into most conversations as nothing makes me prouder.”

Yet it is her prime time protestations on behalf of Meghan on the BBC that are now being slipped into conversation in both Royal and legal circles. To some observers, her appearance on the documentary will feel like part legal defence, part PR as the Sussexes continue to adopt an Americanised approach to fighting their constitutional corner.

While a departure from the Queen’s “never complain, never explain” mantra, they are not the first Royals to adopt a more aggressive approach – with Prince Charles also suing ANL for breach of copyright over the publication of his personal diaries in 2005 and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge successfully winning damages for breach of privacy against French magazine Closer in 2017 after it published photographs of Kate sunbathing topless on holiday.

Yet the unprecedented nature of Afia’s TV intervention suggests that there is more to come from the Sussexes’ chosen lawyer – one who isn’t afraid to play the media at their own game.

The other players in Team Meghan

James Holt, executive director of Archewell Foundation

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