Meghan Markle's court battle returns as she bids to avoid full trial

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read

Watch: Why is Meghan Markle suing the Mail On Sunday?

Meghan Markle will find out if her court case against the Mail On Sunday will be shortened as her lawyers return for another battle.

The Duchess of Sussex is suing the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline’s publisher, Associated Newspaper Ltd (ANL) after it published sections of a letter she wrote to her father in 2018, after she married Prince Harry.

Meghan’s team has applied for a summary judgment, which would stop the case having to go to full trial.

If she wins, the case will be decided by the judge with the information presented to him. It’s being presided over by Mr Justice Warby in the High Court.

However, if she loses, it could mean she will have to give evidence in the witness box. Her father, Thomas Markle Snr, who gave ANL the letter, could also be called up for evidence.

And some of the duchess’s friends may also be drawn in.

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 legal action after the royal tour in South Africa with Prince Harry. (Getty Images)

ANL has not opposed the request, but has said Markle Snr is “elderly and sick” and wants to give evidence, asking the judge to take that into consideration.

In a witness statement previously before the court, ANL’s group editorial legal director Liz Hartley said she had spoken to Markle Snr who told her: “I am a realist and I could die tomorrow. The sooner this case takes place the better.”

But the judge said his “thoughts and feelings” about the letter were “a relatively minor aspect of the case overall”.

ANL is arguing in its case that Meghan’s letter was not private because six of her friends referenced its existence when they gave an anonymous interview to People magazine, seeking to defend her.

Meghan claims she did not know about the interview before it was published.

She previously won a court bid to keep their names private, but the judge said it may not be the case forever that the women remained anonymous.

Meghan, 39, also won a delay to a trial date, on confidential grounds. If a full trial goes ahead, it will be held in the autumn.

The duchess has not been able to attend hearings in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. She and her husband Harry have been unable to travel from their home in California.

Read more: Eight times the Royal Family has sued the media

Meghan announced legal action against ANL at the end of the royal tour in South Africa in 2019, the only foreign tour the Sussexes would take before stepping back as senior royals.

It followed articles published in the Sunday paper as well as online, under the headline “Revealed: The handwritten letter showing true tragedy of Meghan's rift with father she says has 'broken her heart into a million pieces' – and why he feels forced to make the 'devastating' missive public”.

She claims the letter was private, and is seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

The duchess has not claimed the letter is fake but does say it was not published in full, although the article suggested it was.

ANL hotly contests the claims against it and has made it clear it will fight the case fully in court.

The summary judgment hearing is expected to last two days and begins on Tuesday.

Watch: One year on: Prince Harry and Meghan step down