The Duchess of Sussex has lost her first High Court battle against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday over the publication of a private letter Meghan sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle in August 2018. In a ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Warby struck out parts of Meghan's case, following an application by Associated Newspapers at a hearing last week.
The judge ruled in favour of the Mail on Sunday over Meghan Markle
However, the judge said those parts of the Duchess's case may be revived at a later stage if they are put on a proper legal basis. The judge said: "Some of the allegations are struck out as irrelevant to the purpose for which they are pleaded. Some are struck out on the further or alternative ground that they are inadequately detailed. I have also acted so as to confine the case to what is reasonably necessary and proportionate for the purpose of doing justice between these parties."
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He added: "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. Some aspects of the case that I have struck out at this stage may be revived if they are put in proper form."
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A spokesperson for Schillings, who are acting on behalf of The Duchess of Sussex, said: "Today's ruling makes very clear that the core elements of this case do not change and will continue to move forward. The Duchess’ 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.
READ: Prince Harry and Meghan's concerned text messages to Thomas Markle revealed in court documents
"Whilst the Judge recognises that there is a claim for breach of privacy and copyright, we are surprised to see that his ruling suggests that dishonest behaviour is not relevant. We feel honesty and integrity are at the core of what matters; or as it relates to the Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers, their lack thereof.
"Nonetheless, we respect the Judge's decision as the strong case against Associated will continue to focus on the issue of a private, intimate and hand-written letter from a daughter to her father that was published by The Mail on Sunday. This gross violation of any person's right to privacy is obvious and unlawful, and The Mail on Sunday should be held to account for their actions."
The couple during their last public appearance in the UK
According to PA, Mr Justice Warby struck out parts of Meghan's claim against the publisher, including allegations that it acted "dishonestly" by leaving out certain passages of the letter. The judge also struck out 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. Mr Justice Warby said those allegations should not form part of her case at this stage, because they were "irrelevant" to her claim for misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.
Meanwhile, ahead of the first hearing last week, text messages from the Duchess to her father, Thomas Markle, in the lead-up to the royal wedding in May 2018, were disclosed in legal documents. On 15 May 2018, Meghan texted her dad saying: "I've been reaching out to you all weekend but you're not taking any of our calls or replying to any texts. Very concerned about your health and safety and have taken every measure to protect you but not sure what more we can do if you don't respond. Do you need help? Can we send the security team down again? I'm very sorry to hear you're in the hospital but need you to please get in touch with us ... What hospital are you at?"
The Duchess sent another text about ten minutes later, saying: "Harry and I made a decision earlier today and are dispatching the same security guys you turned away this weekend to be a presence on the ground to make sure you're safe ... they will be there at your disposal as soon as you need them. Please, please call as soon as you can.. all of this is incredibly concerning but your health is most important."
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