Meghan Markle is believed to have dialled into the High Court from her home in Los Angeles, as her lawyer argued her father was harassed and manipulated by reporters at the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline.
The Duchess of Sussex is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd [ANL], the publishers of the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline, over its publication of excerpts of a letter she wrote to her father in 2019.
She is seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.
She was reported to be planning to listen in from the home she is renting in California with her husband, Prince Harry and their son Archie, as the hearing began over videolink on Friday.
The hearing was moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic, and would have begun at 2am LA time. Her representative, David Sherborne, began just after 12pm BST, 4am in California.
Sections of a letter Meghan, 38, wrote to her father Thomas Markle were published in the Mail On Sunday and online in February last year, under the headline: “Revealed: The letter showing true tragedy of Meghan’s rift with a father she says has ‘broken her heart into a million pieces’.”
Mr Markle spoke to the paper after an article appeared in People magazine, which was said to be from an interview with five of Meghan’s friends, and referenced a letter she wrote to him.
He said the article misrepresented the contents of the letter. According to her team, she denies any knowledge of the People magazine article before it was published.
But Meghan’s team says it was the Mail On Sunday who deliberately chose to leave some sections of the letter out of its report, to mislead the public and caused the dispute between the duchess and her father to begin with.
The duchess says her father, Mr Markle, was harassed and manipulated the publisher and that she sought for him to be left alone.
Associated Newspapers denies all the allegations.
ANL’s lawyers will argue Meghan’s neat handwriting and the “multiple self-congratulatory remarks” she made in the letter to her father indicated she knew or intended it to be read by a third party.
At a preliminary hearing on Friday, lawyers for Associated Newspapers asked the court to strike out parts of Meghan’s case ahead of a full trial of the issues.
The publisher’s legal team argued that allegations of “dishonesty and malicious intent” made against it by the duchess should not form part of her case.
Making the case for ANL, Antony White said the details of nine additional articles given by the duchess’s legal team of other times she claims lies were written about her were irrelevant.
The duchess’s legal papers also referenced a number of tabloid articles which she said contained lies, including one about her buying a copper bathtub for Frogmore Cottage.
White said it was “patently unsustainable” for the duchess to rely on examples of articles which she says are evidence there was a campaign against her.
Sherborne said the articles they have given as examples show that there has been distress caused to Meghan, and that they were “intrusive and offensive”.
The articles which Meghan’s team say caused distress and portray “an agenda” against the duchess, include one headlined “Harry’s girls is (almost) straight outta Compton” and another which linked avocados as her favourite snack to “human rights abuses, drought and murder”.
In the hearing, White also said it was “objectionable” to suggest it was the publisher who caused the dispute between Meghan and her 75-year-old father.
Meghan’s legal team is using a case involving her father-in-law to help their argument. Prince Charles took his own legal action against ANL when his private diaries were published.
At the time, 2005, the Mail On Sunday said it was in the public interest. The High Court disagreed and awarded damages to the Prince of Wales.
ANL has argued this time as well that the reasons for the rift between the duchess and her father are a matter of public interest, something the duchess and her lawyers say is not true.
Sherborne said there is a distinction between public interest and the public being interested in something.
Meghan has shown how much of her letter was left out in a representation which blurs out the sections which were used and fully blacks out the sections which were missed out. Her lawyers says this proves the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline did not use all the letter, and say they claimed they did.
Sherborne said this was also proof she wanted the letter to be kept private and not divulged to the media.
As the court returned on Friday afternoon, Sherborne turned his attention to questions between his team and ANL’s about who had been dishonest. ANL says the duchess has not been specific enough about why the articles were dishonest.
Sherborne said he could not necessarily single out the article’s author, Caroline Graham, without knowing if there was someone else who contributed to an editorial decision.
He said the newspaper was dishonest and misleading because it stated the whole letter was printed, but it was not.
White said the article claimed the Mail On Sunday had seen the full letter and then printed extracts from it.
Responding, White said Graham may not have been the one to decide which sections of the letter were used, and suggested the issues would have been around space and layout of the article.
He also said a letter used by Meghan’s lawyers, in which Mr Markle said “85%” of the article was “lies and bulls***” was irrelevant, claiming the journalist mentioned, Peter Sheridan, is not the author of any of the articles.
The hearing was before Mr Justice Warby of the Queen’s bench division, who will make a decision on the ANL application.
He said he hoped to make one within the week. There is no date for a trial set.