Meghan Markle tries to stop Mail On Sunday naming her five friends

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·Royal Correspondent
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LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex delivers a speech as she launches the Smart Works capsule collection on September 12, 2019 in London, England. Created in September 2013 Smart Works exists to help unemployed women regain the confidence they need to succeed at job interviews and return to employment. (Photo by Mark Large - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The duchess will try to stop the papers naming her friends. (Getty Images)

Meghan Markle is trying to stop the MailOnline and the Mail On Sunday naming five of her friends in a legal battle over the publication of a letter she sent to her father.

Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), the publishers of the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline, for breach of copyright after it printed extracts of a personal letter she sent to her father Thomas Markle after her wedding to Prince Harry.

ANL will claim the letter was not private because five of the Duchess of Sussex’s friends spoke to People magazine and alluded to it.

A source close to the Duchess of Sussex conformed she has filed papers with the High Court to prevent ANL naming these five friends in their paper.

The court has already been told the names of the friends but confidentially. It’s understood the Mail On Sunday put Meghan’s team “on notice” that unless she filed otherwise, the paper would consider those names “reportable”.

Read more: Why is Meghan Markle suing the Mail on Sunday?

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 02:  Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a Creative Industries and Business Reception on October 02, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Meghan announced she was suing ANL at the end of their tour in South Africa. (Getty Images)

A spokesman for the Mail On Sunday has denied that they intended to publish the women’s names before court proceedings, but said confidentiality should be considered by the court.

In a witness statement filed with the High Court and seen by Yahoo UK, the duchess will say: “These five women are not on trial, and nor am I. The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial. It is this publisher that acted unlawfully and is attempting to evade accountability; to create a circus and distract from the point of this case - that the Mail on Sunday unlawfully published my private letter.

“Each of these women is a private citizen, young mother, and each has a basic right to privacy. Both the Mail on Sunday and the court system have their names on a confidential schedule, but for the Mail on Sunday to expose them in the public domain for no reason other than clickbait and commercial gain is vicious and poses a threat to their emotional and mental wellbeing.

“The Mail on Sunday is playing a media game with real lives.

“I respectfully ask the court to treat this legal matter with the sensitivity it deserves, and to prevent the publisher of the Mail on Sunday from breaking precedent and abusing the legal process by identifying these anonymous individuals – a privilege that these newspapers in fact rely upon to protect their own unnamed sources.”

Read more: How Archie's LA life with Harry and Meghan will be different to his other royal cousins

The source also indicated concern about potential intimidation of other witnesses who may come forward in the case if the women are named and extensively written about.

Meghan’s previous court filings indicate she did not know her friends were going to speak to the magazine before they did, and she only found out about the article after it was published.

In the statement filed on Thursday, which also marks 100 days since the couple left their senior royal roles, she said the women “made a choice on their own to speak anonymously with a US media outlet more than a year ago, to defend me from the bullying behaviour of Britain’s tabloid media”.

A Mail on Sunday spokesman said: “To set the record straight, The Mail on Sunday had absolutely no intention of publishing the identities of the five friends this weekend. But their evidence is at the heart of the case and we see no reason why their identities should be kept secret.

“That is why we told the Duchess’s lawyers last week that the question of their confidentiality should be properly considered by the court.”

The five friends told People magazine in February 2019 she had written to her father to say: “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.”

Four days later, the Mail On Sunday published extracts of the letter. It has denied it sought to alter the meaning of the letter in the parts it wrote, and has said it will hotly contest the case.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 28:  (NO UK SALES FOR 28 DAYS) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meetS wellwishers as she visits the National War Memorial on October 28, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on their official 16-day Autumn tour visiting cities in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.  (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
Meghan has said there is no need for her friends to be named because they are not on trial. (WireImage)

The duchess lost the first battle in the High Court against ANL as it applied to have sections of her case struck out.

A ruling was handed down from Mr Justice Warby in the High Court on 1 May.

In the ruling, Mr Justice Warby said the parts of Meghan’s case which should be struck out include allegations “the defendant acted dishonestly, and in bad faith”, and “deliberately dug up or stirred up conflict between the claimant and her father”.

Claims she was distressed by an “obvious agenda of publishing intrusive or offensive stories about [her] intended to portray her in a false and damaging light” were also struck out.

Mr Justice Warby said the argument presented by the duchess’s team of dishonesty was “not essential” to her case of breach of copyright, and that it was “inadequately pleaded”.

The judge said Meghan’s argument that ANL had stirred up a dispute between her and her father was “impermissibly vague”.

Yahoo UK has contacted ANL for comment.

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