| 15°C Dublin

Meghan wins round one of court fight as pals not named

Judge rules that friends' names can be kept private for now


Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle

A judge has sided with Meghan Markle in her battle to keep the names of five close friends secret while she brings a privacy-invasion lawsuit against a British newspaper.

But he criticised both sides in the case for playing out their battle in the media as well as the courtroom.

High Court judge Mark Warby said: "I have concluded that, for the time being at least, the court should grant the claimant the order that she seeks," protecting the anonymity of friends who defended Ms Markle in the pages of a US magazine.

The Duchess of Sussex is suing the publisher of the 'Mail on Sunday' and the 'MailOnline' website over five articles that published portions of a handwritten letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, after her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018.

Ms Markle (39) is seeking damages from publisher Associated Newspapers Ltd for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and data protection breaches.

The duchess asked the judge to prohibit publishing details of female friends who spoke anonymously to 'People' magazine to condemn the alleged bullying she had received from the media. She argued that the friends were not parties to the case and had a "basic right to privacy".

Following the ruling, a source said the duchess was "happy" with the decision.

Associated Newspapers' attorney Antony White said during a court hearing last week that the friends were potential witnesses in the case, and keeping their names secret "would be a heavy curtailment of the media's and the defendant's entitlement to report this case and the public's right to know about it".

Mr Warby ruled in favour of anonymity, saying it would serve justice by shielding Meghan's friends from the "glare of publicity" in the pretrial stage of the case.

"Generally, it does not help the interests of justice if those involved in litigation are subjected to, or surrounded by, a frenzy of publicity," he said. "At trial, that is a price that may have to be paid in the interests of transparency."

No date has been set for the full trial, which is likely to be one of the highest-profile civil cases in the UK for years.

The judge said that in pretrial wrangling, each side had "overstated its case" and made "hyperbolic assertions" about the other.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

"Neither side has, so far, been willing to confine the presentation of its case to the courtroom," Mr Warby said. "Both sides have demonstrated an eagerness to play out the merits of their dispute in public, outside the courtroom." he said.

Associated Newspapers, which is contesting the duchess's privacy-infringement claim, says it was Meghan's friends who brought the letter into the public domain by describing it in the 'People' article. One told the magazine that the duchess had written: "Dad, I'm so heartbroken. I love you. I have one father. Please stop victimising me through the media so we can repair our relationship."

The publisher's lawyers argue that the information about the letter disclosed in the article must have come "directly or indirectly" from Meghan. But Meghan's attorney, Justin Rusbrooke, argued that the duchess was unaware her friends were speaking to the magazine. They say the anonymous interviews were arranged by one of the five friends, who was concerned about the toll media criticism was taking on the duchess who was pregnant at the time.

Most Watched