Meghan’s lawsuit against the British tabloid at its first court hearing

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The first court hearing in a confidentiality case by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, against a tabloid newspaper for printing part of a letter to her father began Friday in the High Court in London, England.

Meghan, wife of Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, Prince Harry, is suing publisher Associated Newspapers for articles in her Mail on Sunday newspaper published in February of last year which were based on a letter she had sent to her father, Thomas Markle.

Duchess’s lawyers say her publication was a misuse of private information and violated her copyright. They are asking for increased damages from the newspaper.

Given the foreclosure of the coronavirus in Britain, Friday’s hearing was videotaped, which Judge Mark Warby said was a relatively new way of handling such cases.

“This is not a trial, there will be no witnesses and I will not make any factual findings about the underlying events,” said Warby. The hearing is one of the first steps in the legal process and the date for a full trial has not yet been set.

Meghan and Harry, who live in the Los Angeles area after resigning from royal office late last month, are expected to listen to part of the audience from a distance, a source said.

Meghan Markle’s father Thomas Markle is seen in a video frame during an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain show in June 2018. (Hello Britain / ITV / Reuters)

The newspaper’s lawyer Antony White asked Friday to strike out parts of Meghan’s claim, arguing that they were not relevant or inadmissible, were not properly argued or disproportionate for the court to investigate.

The case focuses on articles published in February 2019 on the breakup between Meghan and her father, who broke up after her lavish and pompous marriage to Harry in May of the previous year.

Markle retired a few days in advance after undergoing heart surgery and learning that he had staged photos with a paparazzi photographer. Speculation about his presence dominated the build-up to the ceremony.

Documents from Meghan’s lawyers this week accused the Mail and other tabloids of harassing, humiliating and manipulating Markle and contributing to the fallout between father and daughter.

They say the Mail also misreported the letter, which was never intended to be made public, to paint the royal family in a bad light.

Text message details

The Mail says that unidentified friends of Meghan had put her version of events in interviews with the American magazine People and that Markle was entitled to put his side.

The newspaper’s lawyers also argue that given Meghan’s royal status, there was a legitimate public interest in her personal and family relationships.

In the papers submitted by Meghan’s lawyers this week, there were details about the text messages Harry sent to his future stepfather, begging him not to speak to the media and call him and his daughter.

The duchess missed a call from Markle at 4:57 a.m. on the morning of the wedding and has received no calls or messages from her since then, court documents added. She sent her letter to him in August 2018.

The lawsuit is the latest step in growing hostility between the media and the couple.

This week, Meghan and Harry announced that they would have “no engagement” with four of the major British tabloids, accusing them of false and invasive coverage.

This was derided by commentators from many British newspapers, who accused them of dubious selfishness and timing when making the announcement during the COVID-19 crisis.

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