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7 facts from Meghan Markle's High Court privacy case

The Duchess of Sussex is in the middle of legal action against Associated Newspapers

meghan high court case latest© Photo: Getty Images
November 20, 2020
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The Duchess of Sussex has taken legal action against Associated Newspapers (ANL) publisher of the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline over articles published in February 2019, which featured parts of a "private and confidential" letter from Meghan to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018.

Meghan is seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, breaching the Data Protection Act and infringement of copyright over five articles published in February 2019 which included extracts from the "private and confidential" letter to her father.

A trial was due to take place in January 2021, but this has now been postponed until autumn 2021, with the Duchess' legal team citing "confidential grounds" as the reason for a postponement.

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With the latest court documents this week revealing that Meghan had sought advice from two senior members of the royal family about how to respond to her father, here's what we know about the High Court case so far…

Meghan's five friends have remained anonymous

In August, the Duchess won a High Court bid to keep secret the identities of five friends who gave an anonymous interview to PEOPLE magazine in February 2019.

Mr Justice Warby ruled that Meghan's friends will remain anonymous "for the time being at least," in a judgement.

A source close to the team representing the Duchess at the time said: "The Duchess felt it was necessary to take this step to try and protect her friends - as any of us would - and we’re glad this was clear. We are happy that the Judge has agreed to protect these five individuals."

Royal biography permitted to be used as part of ANL's defence.

In September, ANL was given permission to rely on royal biography Finding Freedom, published in August, in its written defence to the Duchess’s High Court claim.

finding freedom© Photo: Getty Images

Finding Freedom was published in August

In her re-amended reply to ANL's defence, Meghan's legal team argued that neither the Duke or Duchess co-operated with the authors of the book, did not meet with them and were not interviewed for the biography, formally or informally.

Meghan's privacy trial postponed on "confidential ground"

In October, a High Court judge accepted Meghan's application to postpone the date of the full trial in the case she has brought against Associated Newspapers. 

The trial date provisionally set for 11 January 2021 has now been vacated and a new date is set to be confirmed for autumn 2021 after Meghan's legal team gave a "confidential ground" as to why a postponement was needed.

Meghan's father not told confidential reason for postponement of trial

In a ruling published this week, Mr Justice Warby also said Thomas had "quite rightly" not been told the confidential reason for his daughter's successful bid to adjourn the trial to autumn next year.

Meghan admits to giving personal information to authors of Finding Freedom through a third party

The latest documents reveal that the Duchess allowed a friend to tell the authors of royal biography Finding Freedom about the existence of a letter she had written to her father. 

The court papers state: "[Meghan] was concerned that her father's narrative in the media that she had abandoned him" would be repeated in the book, adding that the Duchess had tried to call him and text Thomas, as well as writing a letter to him. 

meghan harry endeavour fund© Photo: Getty Images

Harry and Meghan at one of their final royal engagements in March

It adds: "Accordingly, she indicated to a person whom she knew had already been approached by the authors that the true position as above... could be communicated to the authors to prevent any further misrepresentation."

The papers state that the Meghan nor Harry co-operated with Finding Freedom's authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand to put out "their version of events" by means of the book, a stance that the couple have maintained since before its publication in August. 

Meghan's letter to Thomas Markle was written on advice of 'two senior royals'

The new court documents reveal that the Duchess sought advice from two senior members of the royal family about how to respond to her father, which prompted her to write the letter at the centre of the letter battle. 

rcj© Photo: Getty Images

The trial has been postponed until autumn 2021

Meghan's legal team said in the documents: "Given the claimant's level of distress surrounding the form, frequency and content of the media coverage concerning her father, and as the newest member of the royal family who wanted to follow protocol, the claimant sought advice from two senior members of the royal family on how best to address the situation."

It adds that after seeking advice, Duchess decided to write a letter to her dad in an attempt to get him to stop talking to the press.

The two senior royals have not been named in the papers.

Meghan shared a draft of the letter with Harry and palace aide

In documents filed earlier this week, ANL's lawyers claim the Duchess’s letter is not her “intellectual creation” and therefore not original work, as it was copied from an electronic draft, had the input of the palace communications team and contained pre-existing facts including Meghan’s “view of her father and his conduct”, and so was not subject to copyright protection.

Responding to ANL's claims that Kensington Palace's then communications secretary Jason Knauf "and/or" the Kensington Palace communications team "contributed" to a draft of the letter, Meghan's legal team stated in their reply that the Duchess shared a draft – of the notes she wrote on her iPhone – with Harry and Mr Knauf.

The document said: "She shared a draft of that draft with her husband and Mr Knauf for support, as this was a deeply painful process that they lived through with her."

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