The Duchess of Sussex’s lawyers have argued that her privacy case against the Mail on Sunday does not need to go to trial because the newspaper has “no real prospect of success”.
Meghan Markle is suing the newspaper’s owners for invasion of privacy after it published the contents of a personal letter she wrote to her father in the summer of 2018, shortly after the royal wedding in Windsor.
The Duchess claims it was a “direct assault” on three of the four strands of her privacy rights.
Her lawyer called it a “triple barrelled invasion” because the Mail on Sunday article infringed her rights to a private life, a family life and her correspondence.
A trial has been pencilled in for October, after a delay requested by Meghan, but she is applying for a Summary Judgment instead.
If successful, a Summary Judgment would involve the judge deciding the case and the trial would no longer go ahead.
The matter is being argued in a virtual hearing of the High Court, which was beset by a short delay at the start because the microphone on the laptop of Meghan’s lawyers wouldn’t work.
Her legal team argues that the Mail on Sunday committed a “plain and serious breach” of Meghan’s privacy when, in February 2019, it published extracts from the letter she had sent to her father about the breakdown of their relationship.
The case, they claimed, centres around one simple question: who has the “rights of control” over the contents of a letter which is “self-evidently private and sensitive”.
Justin Rushbrooke QC, for the Duchess of Sussex, told the judge that it doesn’t matter “whether the writer of the letter is a Duchess or an ordinary citizen” but, he said, it is clear that Meghan, not the Mail on Sunday, has the rights of control over its contents.
Meghan wrote the five-page letter to her father in August 2018 and sent it by FedEx recorded delivery to her father at his home in Mexico.
The Duchess started her 1250-word letter with the sentence: “Daddy, it is with a heavy heart that I write this, not understanding why you have chosen to take this path, turning a blind eye to the pain you’re causing”.
Extracts, also read out in court include Meghan writing:
“Your actions have broken my heart into a million pieces”
“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”
“If you love me, as you tell the press you do, please stop. Please allow us to live our lives in peace”
“Please stop lying, please stop creating so much pain, please stop exploiting my relationship with my husband”
Meghan also accused her father of not protecting her from the stories her half-sister, Samantha Markle, had been giving to some newspapers and TV shows which, Meghan wrote, made her “crumble”.
“You fixated and clicked on the lies they were writing about me, especially those manufactured by your other daughter, who I barely know ... you watched me silently suffer at the hand of her vicious lies, I crumbled inside.”
Her lawyers say the letter can be characterised as “a message of peace” after the dramatic and sudden break down of the relationship between Meghan and Thomas Markle. Meghan’s intentions were to encourage her father to stop talking to the press.
The Duchess’ team points to the last line of the letter which the Mail on Sunday decided not to publish.
Meghan wrote: “I ask for nothing other than peace. And I wish the same for you.”
The judge Mr Justice Warby told the court that he had read the biography Finding Freedom, which also included some extracts from the letter, but when asked if he had enjoyed it, he diplomatically said: “I don’t think I should answer that.”
The Mail on Sunday’s owners, Associated Newspapers Limited, claims there was a public interest in publishing the letter because Meghan was a senior member of the Royal Family at the time.
The newspaper also claims Meghan must have known the letter would be leaked to the press at the time of writing it.
The Mail will make its submissions to the Summary Judgment hearing in due course.