LONDON – A London judge is listening to the final stage on Wednesday of the Duchess of Sussex’s privacy violation lawsuit against a British newspaper, as Meghan tries to keep the names of five of her friends out of the public eye.
The former Meghan Markle is suing the publisher of the Mail on Sunday newspaper and the MailOnline website at the High Court of Great Britain over five articles that published parts of a handwritten letter she wrote to her separated father, Thomas Markle, after her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018.
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Meghan, 38, is seeking damages from the publisher Associated Newspapers Ltd. for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement, and data protection violations. Associated Newspapers has said it will strongly dispute the claim.
In a one-day pre-trial hearing, Judge Mark Warby is considering a request by Meghan’s attorneys to ban publication of the personal data of friends who spoke anonymously to People magazine in early 2019 to condemn the alleged harassment that had received at the hands of the United Kingdom Press.
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Lawyers for the newspaper say it was Meghan’s friends who brought the letter into the public domain by describing it in the People article. Associated Newspapers says the evidence from the friends “is at the heart of the case” and that their identity must be known.
The duchess’s attorney, Justin Rushbrooke, argued that the court had a duty to “protect the identity of confidential news sources.”
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Associated Newspapers has argued that the information about the letter to Thomas Markle revealed in the People article must have come “directly or indirectly” from the duchess.
But Rushbrooke said Meghan didn’t know at the time that her friends were talking to the magazine. She said the anonymous interviews were organized by one of the five friends, who was concerned by the criticism that the media was charging the duchess, who was pregnant at the time with her first child.
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The lawyer said that Meghan “did not know in advance that any reference to the letter would be made” and did not even know that the interviews would take place.
In a witness statement filed in the case, the duchess said, “Each of these women is a private citizen, a young mother, and each has a basic right to privacy.”
“These five women are not being judged, and neither am I,” he wrote. “The editor of Mail on Sunday is the one on trial. It is this publisher who acted illegally and is trying to evade responsibility; create a circus and distract from the point of this case, that the Mail on Sunday illegally published my private letter. “
American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the television legal drama “Suits”, married Queen Elizabeth II Harry’s grandson in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Her son Archie was born the following year,
In January, the couple announced that they would abandon royal duties and move to North America, citing what they said was an unbearable intrusion by the British media.
Neither Harry nor Meghan was in court for Wednesday’s hearing.