Meghan wins legal battle with news publisher to keep friends’ identities secret

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The Duchess of Sussex has won a High Court bid to keep secret the identities of five friends who gave an anonymous interview to a US magazine.

Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, over an article which reproduced parts of a “private and confidential” letter she sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle, 76, in August 2018.

At a preliminary hearing in London last week, Meghan’s lawyers applied for the five friends who gave an interview to People magazine to remain anonymous in reports.

In a ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice Warby said he had concluded that “for the time being at least” the duchess should be granted an order which protects the identities of the five individuals.



The Duchess of Sussex

In the People article, published in February last year, the friends talked about bullying Meghan said she has faced. They have only been identified in confidential court documents.

The duchess, 39, says her friends gave the interview without her knowledge.

At a hearing last week, Meghan’s lawyers argued that the friends – referred to as A to E – have a right to anonymity both as confidential journalistic sources and under their own privacy rights.

Justin Rushbrooke QC, representing the duchess, said that the publisher (ANL) had made the interviews with People relevant to the case and had “forced” the duchess to identify the names of the five friends in a court document.

Meghan’s lawyers also argue that ANL has “already demonstrated a willingness to publish articles” based on the contents of court documents.

In written submissions, Antony White QC, acting for ANL, said the order sought by the duchess’s lawyers would leave Meghan entitled to disclose the identities to anyone – including the media – who could publish it, while ANL’s titles would remain barred from doing so.

Mr White said the duchess had “used” her public profile and PR team to “publicise and promote the merits of her own position” since starting the action.

ANL won the first skirmish in the legal action on May 1, when Mr Justice Warby struck out parts of Meghan’s claim, including allegations that the publisher acted “dishonestly” by leaving out certain passages of the letter.

Court papers show Meghan has agreed to pay ANL’s £67,888 costs for that hearing in full.

Meghan is suing ANL over five articles in total – two in the MoS and three on MailOnline – which were published in February 2019 and reproduced parts of a handwritten letter she sent to her father in August 2018.

The duchess is seeking damages from ANL 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 that the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning, and says it will hotly contest the case.



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