Meghan Markle trial: Father’s feelings ruled ‘relatively minor’, as judge grants delay until next autumn

Judge rejected Thomas Markle’s preference for early trial – after claiming he was ‘finding process stressful’

<p>Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle</p>

Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle

Thomas Markle’s “thoughts and feelings” are a “relatively minor” part of her privacy claim against a UK newspaper – and no reason to rush a trial, a High Court judge has said.

Meghan Markle is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd, the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, over an article which reproduced parts of a handwritten letter sent to her 76-year-old father in August 2018.

At a hearing in London in October, Mr Justice Warby agreed to adjourn the trial – due to start in January – until the autumn after the Duchess of Sussex’s legal team gave “a confidential ground” for doing so.

In a heavily-redacted ruling published on Wednesday, Mr Justice Warby gave further information on why he had agreed to the request for an adjournment.

The defendant’s legal team had said Mr Markle would prefer an early trial, because he is “finding the process stressful” and is “not in the best of health”.

However, the judge stated: “Mr Markle’s subjective thoughts and feeling do seem to be, on any objective view, a relatively minor aspect of the case overall.”

He added: “There is no suggestion that Mr Markle would not be available to give evidence later next year. There is, in particular, no medical evidence suggesting that a delay would make his availability less likely.

“The evidence before me included not only an account of Mr Markle’s situation and health but also an account of his views and feelings about a possible delay to the trial. But it was not suggested that his feelings on that matter should guide my decision.”

The High Court judge did not give any details of the “confidential” reason for Ms Markle’s request to adjourn the trial until the autumn, saying it was “unnecessary and undesirable” to do so.

Mr Markle has “quite rightly” not been told the confidential reason for his daughter’s application to adjourn the hearing, his judgment also stated.

Thomas Markle

Sections of the 2018 letter to Mr Markle were published in February last year, and it was announced the duchess would be bringing legal action in October.

The duchess is seeking damages from the newspaper publisher and website operator for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

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

Meghan is suing over five articles, two in the Mail on Sunday and three on MailOnline, which were published in February 2019.

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