Meghan Markle loses first stage of battle with newspaper over publication of private letter to her father

‘Core elements’ of royal’s case have not changed, her legal representation insists

Andy Gregory
Friday 01 May 2020 13:24
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Mail on Sunday publisher wins first skirmish in Meghan privacy case over letter

Meghan Markle has lost the first stage in a legal battle against Associated Newspapers after the High Court in London ruled to strike out part of her privacy case.

The Duchess of Sussex is contesting a number of articles from February 2019 – two in The Mail on Sunday and three by MailOnline – in which the contents of a private letter to her estranged father were published.

The publisher’s lawyers argued at a preliminary hearing last week that allegations it had acted dishonestly and stoked the family rift should be removed from the case, along with references to other articles about the royal that Meghan said were false.

In the ruling on Friday, Justice Mark Warby agreed to strike out parts of Meghan’s claim, including allegations that the publisher acted “dishonestly” by leaving out certain passages of the letter.

Allegations that the publisher deliberately “stirred up” issues between Meghan and her father, and that it had an “agenda” of publishing intrusive or offensive stories about her, were also thrown out.

Justice Warby said those should not form part of her case at this stage, because they were “irrelevant” to her claim for damages over alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement, and breach of the Data Protection Act.

“Some are struck out on the further or alternative ground that they are inadequately detailed,” Justice Warby said, adding that he had sought to confine the case to what is “reasonably necessary and proportionate for the purpose of doing justice between these parties”.

“I do not consider that the allegations struck out on that basis go to the ‘heart’ of the case, which at its core concerns the publication of five articles disclosing the words of, and information drawn from, the letter written by the claimant to her father in August 2018.”

However, he said the parts of her case that he had struck out may be revived at a later stage if they are put on a proper legal basis.

In a statement issued after the ruling, a spokesperson for Schillings, the law firm representing the duchess, said the core elements of her case had not changed.

“Today’s ruling makes very clear that the core elements of this case do not change and will continue to move forward,” they said.

“The duchess’s rights were violated; the legal boundaries around privacy were crossed.

“As part of this process, the extremes to which The Mail on Sunday used distortive, manipulative, and dishonest tactics to target the Duchess of Sussex have been put on full display.”

Associated Newspapers wholly denies the allegations, particularly the claim that the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning, and says it will hotly contest the case.

Additional reporting by agencies

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