Meghan did not ‘collaborate’ with authors of recent book, High Court hears

The Duchess of Sussex’s lawyers have denied she “collaborated” with the authors of a recent book about her and the Duke of Sussex at the latest hearing of her High Court action against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday.

Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers (ANL) over its publication of a “private and confidential” letter sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle in August 2018.

The Duchess, 39, claims the February 2019 publication of parts of the handwritten letter to Mr Markle, 76, was a misuse of her private information and breached the Data Protection Act.

At the latest preliminary hearing in London on Monday, ANL sought permission to amend its written defence to Meghan’s claim to argue she “co-operated with the authors of the recently published book ‘Finding Freedom’ to put out their version of certain events”.

But Meghan’s lawyers argued that references in the book by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, which was published in August, were simply “extracts from the letter lifted from the defendant’s own articles”.

In written submissions, Justin Rushbrooke QC said: “The claimant and her husband did not collaborate with the authors on the book, nor were they interviewed for it, nor did they provide photographs to the authors for the book.”

He added that neither Meghan nor Harry to spoke to Mr Scobie or Ms Durand, who he said “were not given the impression that the claimant wanted the contents of the letter to be reproduced in the book”.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Antony White QC, representing ANL, said in written submissions that Finding Freedom gave “every appearance of having been written with their (Meghan and Harry’s) extensive co-operation”.

He added that ANL wished to amend its defence to allege that Meghan “caused or permitted information to be provided directly or indirectly to, and co-operated with, the authors of (Finding Freedom), including by giving or permitting them to be given information about the letter”.

The court also heard that the total legal costs of both sides are estimated to be around £3 million, up to and including the trial.

In documents before the court, Jessie Bowhill – who also represents the Duchess – said: “The overall total costs figures are £1,798,043.57 for the claimant and £1,230,425 for the defendant.”

She added: “At the broad brush level, £1.8 million is a reasonable and proportionate amount for a seven to 10-day trial in the High Court in a case concerning private information, personal data and intellectual property rights of a high-profile individual.”

Last month, the Duchess won the most recent tussle in the legal action after Mr Justice Warby ruled in her favour over protecting the identities of five friends who gave an anonymous interview to a US magazine.

Meghan’s lawyers had applied for the five friends who gave an interview to People magazine, speaking out against the bullying Meghan said she has faced, to remain anonymous in reports of the proceedings.

Meghan is suing ANL over five articles in total, two in the Mail on Sunday and three on MailOnline, which were published in February 2019.

The headline of the first Mail on Sunday article read: “Revealed: The letter showing true tragedy of Meghan’s rift with a father she says has ‘broken her heart into a million pieces’.”

Monday’s hearing before Judge Francesca Kaye will also deal with applications for further disclosure and directions towards a trial, which is due to begin in January.

It is not clear if the judge will give a ruling on ANL’s application to amend its defence on Monday, or reserve it to a later date.