Thomas Markle could be witness against Meghan in newspaper court case

15 January 2020, 08:51

The case was laid before the High Court on Tuesday
The case was laid before the High Court on Tuesday. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Thomas Markle could be a witness against his daughter Meghan in the royal legal battle with the Mail on Sunday, High Court papers reveal.

The Duchess of Sussex has accused the Mail on Sunday and its parent company Associated Newspapers of unlawfully publishing a letter she sent to her father, but the paper will argue publication was justified because there is a "huge and legitimate" public interest in the "personal relationships" of members of the royal family.

Meghan visits Vancouver women's centre 24 hours after royal summit

The move was revealed yesterday in legal papers filed at the High Court in London, but it remains unclear when they case could appear before judges.

The papers show the Mail On Sunday will rely on evidence from Mr Markle, including that he "had a weighty right to tell his version of what had happened between himself and his daughter including the contents of the letter".

This means, should the case make it to the trial stage, the father and daughter could be called to testify against one another, with the newspaper's sister publication the Daily Mail reporting Mr Markle would be willing to face off against his daughter in court.

The document also claims members of the royal family "generate and rely on publicity about themselves and their lives in order to maintain the privileged positions they hold and to promote themselves".

The duchess' Law firm Schillings, filed the High Court claim against the paper in October, alleging misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.

But in its legal defence, the paper claims the duchess "did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy that the contents of the letter were private and would remain so".

The paper also argues the publication of the letter was in response to a "one-sided" article in People Magazine in February 2019 featuring an interview with five unnamed "close friends" of the duchess which referenced the letter, meaning its existence was in the public domain.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the Duchess of Sussex has been seen for just the second time since the royal crisis began at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre in Vancouver discussing "issues affecting women in the community".

The shelter posted a photograph on its Facebook page of Meghan at the centre of a group of eight women, with the caption "Look who we had tea with today!

"The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, visited us today to discuss issues affecting women in the community."

It comes just 24 hours after the Queen agreed Harry and Meghan could step back as senior royals and begin a "new life" as an "independent" family.

Buckingham Palace also confirmed the Sussexes would begin a "transition period" in which they would split their time between the UK and Canada.

In February, the Mail On Sunday published extracts of Meghan's handwritten letter to her estranged father Thomas Markle.

In one extract, published by the newspaper, the duchess wrote: "Your actions have broken my heart into a million pieces - not simply because you have manufactured such unnecessary and unwarranted pain, but by making the choice to not tell the truth as you are puppeteered in this. Something I will never understand."

Mr Markle was caught up in controversy in the build-up to the 2018 wedding after he allegedly staged paparazzi photographs of himself and then began commenting regularly to entertainment website TMZ about his contact with his daughter.

When the legal action was announced in October, Harry claimed the alleged unlawful publication of the private letter was done in "an intentionally destructive manner" to "manipulate" readers.

In a statement released at the time, a spokeswoman for law firm Schillings claimed the "intrusive" publication of the letter was part of Associated Newspapers' campaign to write "false and deliberately derogatory stories about" Meghan, "as well as her husband".

But the Mail On Sunday said it would stand by the story and denied editing the letter to change its meaning.