Thursday December 02, 2021

Meghan’s lawyers say UK news group has ‘no viable defence’

January 20, 2021

LONDON: Lawyers for Meghan Markle on Tuesday sought a court ruling against a British newspaper group for breaching her privacy and copyright by "the unlawful publication of a private letter."

The Duchess of Sussex has taken action against Associated Newspapers Ltd over publication of the letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas, before her wedding to Prince Harry in May 2018.

Her lawyer, Justin Rushbrooke, told the High Court in London the defence offered by the publishers of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline website had no realistic chance of success. "We say that, actually, at its heart, it is a very straightforward case about the unlawful publication of a private letter," he said.

The publication of extracts from the letter was a "plain and serious breach of her rights to privacy, and the defendant has no viable defence to it", he added. Not only did it breach media guidelines the newspaper was signed up to but was a "triple-barrelled invasion" of her legal rights to private correspondence, a private, and family life.

Rushbrooke asked who had the right of control over the contents of the letter. "There can only be one answer to the question: it’s not the editor of the Mail on Sunday." That would apply to anyone, even if they were not a duchess, he told judge Mark Warby.

The judge previously approved an application by Meghan’s lawyers for the trial to be postponed, and her legal team is now pressing for a judgment to be made without the need for a full trial.

If the judge rules in her favour, then the case is over, bar an appeal. If she loses, then it will go to a full trial later this year, potentially forcing Meghan and her father to face each other in court to give testimony.

Warby ruled against the royal in a preliminary hearing last year, striking out elements of the claim. Meghan alleges that reporters acted "dishonestly and in bad faith", and "deliberately dug up or stirred conflict" between her and her father. She claimed they had an "obvious agenda of publishing intrusive or offensive stories" which were "intended to portray her in a false and damaging light".

The newspaper group was allowed to amend its defence against the claim, to allege the couple were willing to give journalists access to the letter when the circumstances suited them. Associated accuses Meghan of giving the authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand details about the letter to portray her version of events in a more favourable light. The news group also claims she wanted to use the hand-written letter "as part of a media strategy" and discussed it with royal communications officials before it was sent.