Meghan Markle legal case will not become ‘family battle’ with dad, judge says

The "thoughts and feelings" of Meghan Markle's dad Thomas over the letter sent to him by the Duchess of Sussex are a "relatively minor" part of her privacy claim against a British newspaper, a High Court judge has said.

Mr Justice Warby was told that Mr Markle, 76, is "elderly and sick" and wants his "day in court" sooner rather than later, as he warned he "could die tomorrow", reports the Telegraph.

At a hearing in London in October, Mr Justice Warby agreed to adjourn the trial – which was due to start on January 11 next year – until next autumn after hearing from lawyers for both parties in a private hearing.

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

The judge said the private hearing was necessary to protect "the confidentiality of the information relied on" by Meghan in her application to postpone the trial.

Meghan, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), publisher of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, over an article which reproduced parts of a handwritten letter sent to 76-year-old Mr Markle in August 2018.

The judge noted that Antony White QC, representing the newspaper, had accepted that any suggestion that the case "involves in substance a family battle between a daughter and her father would be inaccurate".

In a two-page, heavily redacted judgment published on Wednesday, Mr Justice Warby gave further information on agreeing to the adjournment.

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He did not give any details of the duchess's reasons for applying for the delay, saying his ruling "will not set out much in the way of details of the application, the private and confidential information, or the evidence about it".

It is "unnecessary, and undesirable" to do so, the judge said.

The ruling notes that Mr Markle has been identified as a potential witness for ANL and considers the importance of his evidence.

Mr Justice Warby concludes that Mr Markle's "subjective thoughts and feelings do seem to be, on any objective view, a relatively minor aspect of the case overall".

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"It is not suggested that Mr Markle's evidence on those topics is an essential component of the defence case," the ruling says.

"More importantly… there is no suggestion that Mr Markle would not be available to give evidence later next year. There is, in particular, no medical evidence suggesting that a delay would make his availability less likely."

It also says: "The evidence before me included not only an account of Mr Markle's situation and health but also an account of his views and feelings about a possible delay to the trial. But it was not suggested that his feelings on that matter should guide my decision."

The court is due to hear an application for summary judgment – a legal step which would see the case resolved without a trial – in January next year when Meghan's lawyers will argue that ANL's defence has no prospect of succeeding at a trial.

She is seeking damages from ANL, the newspaper's publisher and operator of the website, for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

ANL wholly denies the allegations, particularly the duchess's claim the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning and says it will hotly contest the case.

Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers over five articles, two in the Mail on Sunday and three on MailOnline, which were published in February 2019.

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