The Mail on Sunday has secured an early win in a lawsuit filed by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, over the British tabloid’s publication of a private letter she sent to her father ahead of her wedding to Prince Harry.
Following an application by the paper’s parent company, Associated Newspapers, the High Court in London handed down a pre-trial ruling Friday that some of the evidence presented by Meghan’s legal team, including a series of negative articles about the Duchess in the Mail, could not be included in the trial.
As a result, the court will not be required to determine whether the Mail on Sunday acted dishonestly, deliberately stirred up conflict between the Duchess and her father Thomas Markle, or pursued a deliberate agenda of publishing offensive or intrusive articles about the Duchess.
The case will focus solely on the claims that the Mail on Sunday infringed on Meghan’s privacy, breached copyright and violated data protection laws.
A spokesperson for the Duchess’ lawyers said in a statement that the ruling does not change the “core elements of the case.”
“Whilst the Judge recognizes that there is a claim for breach of privacy and copyright, we are surprised to see that his ruling suggests that dishonest behavior is not relevant. We feel honesty and integrity are at the core of what matters; or as it relates to the Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers, their lack thereof,” the spokesperson said.
“Nonetheless, we respect the Judge’s decision as the strong case against Associated will continue to focus on the issue of a private, intimate and hand-written letter from a daughter to her father that was published by The Mail on Sunday. This gross violation of any person’s right to privacy is obvious and unlawful, and The Mail on Sunday should be held to account for their action,” the spokesperson added.
The Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers has previously said it stands by the original story it published and will defend the case vigorously. The company said they will argue in trial that there was “huge and legitimate” public interest in members of the royal family and their “personal relationships.”
In a reply brief filed last month, the Duchess of Sussex stated that any claims of freedom of expression by the defendant to publish the contents of the letter are outweighed by her expectation of privacy.
The documents filed also included text messages and phone logs between Harry, Meghan and her father as part of an attempt to show that the Mail’s article was only a “highly partial summary of them” with inaccurate information.
The exchanges show Prince Harry pleading with his future father-in-law to stop speaking to the press shortly before he and Meghan married in 2018, and allege that Thomas Markle did not reply to their missives, instead issuing a statement through celebrity news website TMZ announcing he had gone to hospital after suffering a heart attack.
A date for the full trial has not yet been set.