First court hearing under way in privacy claim by Duchess of Sussex over letter

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expected to listen in to a virtual High Court hearing in the first stage of Meghan’s legal action against a British newspaper over its publication of a “private and confidential” letter to her estranged father.

It is understood that Harry and Meghan will join in to listen to the part of the hearing conducted by her lawyers.

The preliminary hearing, in front of Mr Justice Warby, has begun with Antony White QC, for Associated Newspapers, making submissions on behalf of the publisher.

Meghan is suing the publisher of the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline over an article which reproduced parts of a handwritten letter she sent to Thomas Markle in August 2018.

Sections of the letter were published in the newspaper and online in February last year, and it was announced the duchess would be bringing legal action in October.

The headline on the 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’.

Duke and Duchess of Sussex – Royal Highlights
The Duchess of Sussex’s legal action relates to an article published by the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline which reproduced parts of a handwritten letter she sent to her father, Thomas Markle (PA)

The duchess is seeking damages from Associated Newspapers Ltd, the newspaper’s publisher and operator of the website, for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

Associated Newspapers wholly denies the allegations – particularly the claim that the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning – and says it will hotly contest the case.

At a preliminary hearing on Friday, which is being conducted remotely, lawyers for Associated Newspapers are asking the court to strike out parts of Meghan’s case ahead of a full trial of the issues.

The publisher’s legal team are arguing that allegations of “dishonesty and malicious intent” made against it by the duchess should not form part of her case.

The legal action was announced in October last year in a highly personal statement, in which the Duke of Sussex accused some newspapers of a “ruthless campaign” against his wife.

Referencing his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, who was a tabloid newspaper staple and died in a Paris car crash while being pursued by paparazzi in 1997, Harry said: “Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one.

“Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person.

“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”

In the statement, on the duke and duchess’s official website, Harry said of his wife: “I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in.”

Mr Markle, 75, has claimed he felt pressured to share the letter after its contents were misrepresented in a magazine article.

In an interview with the Mail On Sunday, he said: “I have to defend myself. I only released parts of the letter because other parts were so painful. The letter didn’t seem loving to me. I found it hurtful.”

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