Meghan Markle believes that naming the five friends People People magazine informed about her and writing to her father Thomas would be an "unacceptable price" for pursuing a lawsuit against Sunday's mail and MailOnline, like the high Court heard today.
The Duchess of Sussex asked at a hearing before the Royal Courts of Justice in London to keep the identity of women, all "young mothers", secret.
A skeleton argument brought up in court today by Meghan’s team of lawyers says, "Disclosing your identity to the public at this stage is an unacceptable price for the right to pursue your privacy breach."
But at one awkward moment during the application, Meghan's QC Justin Rushbrooke accidentally said the last name of one of the five friends the Duchess of Sussex wants to keep anonymous.
Judge Justice Warby, who is expected to rule on the matter before August 8, immediately instructed that the person's name should not be reported.
The five women were cited in 2019 as sources for a People Magazine article in legal documents Meghan submitted to the court earlier this month, although her identity was not disclosed.
The People article is at the center of her data protection and copyright lawsuit against Mail on Sunday, as it revealed for the first time the existence of a letter the Duchess had written to her father Thomas.
In response, Antony White, QC for Associated Newspapers, editor of Mail am Sonntag and MailOnline, informed the court that the principle of open justice in the UK means that the five friends should be named. Mr. White also said Meghan was apparently "satisfied … with her friends'" intervention "to speak to People magazine, except for the reference to the letter she wrote to her estranged father.
Meghan Markle (pictured with Prince Harry in October 2018) requested an order from the High Court to prevent anyone from naming her five friends who informed People magazine
He said: “There is no proper evidence (for the application). There is no evidence from four of the five friends at all, and the evidence from the fifth (friend B) has been found to be unsatisfactory. & # 39;
Who are Meghan's five friends who informed People magazine?
The five friends referred to as "young mothers" were never named.
The little information comes from People magazine, which she called "Meghan's Inner Circle".
The first was "a long-time friend" of Meghan, the second was called a "former co-star", the third a "friend from LA", the fourth a "one-time colleague", the fifth a "former friend". a close confidante & # 39 ;.
Earlier this month, Meghan announced that the friends in their testimony related to today's application were all women.
Revealing that they all had children, she said, "Each of these women is a private individual, a young mother, and each has a fundamental right to privacy."
Mr. White said, "In this case, there is no risk of reprisals." The lawyer added: "The information that they provided to People was information about the applicant, but is not described by them as private or as information that they want to protect."
The Mail On Sunday claims that revelations in People and the misleading impression of the letter gave Thomas Markle the right to publish more of the handwritten note in the newspaper to defend themselves after their relationship became hopelessly alienated after Meghan's marriage to Harry in May 2018.
But Meghan insists that she had no idea that one of her friends had spoken to People magazine only after the fact.
All five women have the prospect of being brought to the High Court in London next year to testify in the explosive data protection process. They could be asked to swear under oath whether the Duchess had no prior knowledge that they would speak to people.
Neither Meghan nor Harry attended the hearing before the Royal Courts of Justice in London today.
ANL's lawyers oppose the request to keep Meghan's friends' identities secret and claim that the Duchess's friends made the letter publicly available when it was first mentioned in the People interview.
In writing, Antony White QC, who worked for ANL, said: “Friends are important potential witnesses to a key question.
“Reporting these matters without reference to names would severely limit the right of the media and the accused to report the case and the public's right to know.
"A friend's verbal statements could not be fully and properly reported because the full coverage could identify her, especially since media speculation about her identity has already taken place."
Mr. White also said that the current order, which was requested by the Duchess's lawyers, would give Meghan the right to disclose the identity to anyone, including the media, who could publish it, while excluding ANL's titles.
Meghan’s lawyer Justin Rushbrooke QC said Meghan’s five friends were entitled to “a very high level of excessive confidentiality law” and confidential journalistic sources.
He claimed that "there is sufficient evidence before the court" to support his client's request to maintain the anonymity of her five friends.
He said, "We say that at least four of the five sources have no real role in the question that the defendant's defense raised regarding the interview with People magazine in the United States."
Thomas Markle spoke to the mail on Sunday, sharing the letter with his daughter after the friends spoke to People magazine to defend themselves – evidence of the group of five women is the focus of the high court fight
He added that one of the five, known only as Friend B, had given the court a testimony to support the request.
Mr. Rushbrooke said Friend B was "the best person possible" to provide evidence because "she is the one who actually orchestrated the interviews".
He told the court, "These were confidential sources that gave the interviews on condition of anonymity."
He also said: "In his own reporting – directly back to the first article … that led to this entire legal dispute – the accused describes the interviews themselves as anonymous.
When they spoiled their readers with a long and sensational article online within a few hours of delivery of the document, they described the interviews themselves as anonymous and the names of the five friends as confidential. But within a few hours we find a face. & # 39;
The five friends had chosen to "help" by anonymously interviewing People magazine, which has 35 million readers worldwide. Meghan insists that she didn't know about it
Mr. Rushbrooke QC then informed the court that MailOnline published an article on July 1, a day after the confidential schedule with the names of their five friends had been delivered to MailOnline's Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL).
Mr. Rushbrooke said the article was published shortly before 5 p.m., adding: "If they got it at midnight, journalists would no doubt have thought about it in the morning."
He said it was a "massively long article that says in its own subheadings that …" Meghan has now identified the five friends who spoke anonymously and named them in confidential papers.
Mr. Rushbrooke said MailOnline published another article about Meghan's request shortly after the first.
He said: "There is no doubt that these two publications have triggered the chain reaction of other advertisements that other organs have given to the answer. It couldn't possibly be suggested otherwise. & # 39;
Mr. Rushbrooke added, "It was the accused and only the accused because only the accused had the document that caused the devastating fire."
He went on to say, "Other litigants are not making commercial favors out of the other party's pleadings, but since it does, and it has said in the correspondence, it is precisely this document that the media can properly report – even though they graciously said that they won't publish it until today’s hearing – that’s why we say that an order … is necessary. & # 39;
Mr. Justice Warby said he would make his decision in writing on the Duchess's application at a later date.
He said he would "not make any predictions" when this would be, but he would announce his decision as soon as possible.
In an interview with People & # 39; s Bombshell in February 2019, the five women, who the magazine called "special sisterhood," praised Meghan.
One of them – identified as "Friend A" in Meghan's court records – told the world about the letter she sent to her father in October 2018.
Thomas Markle said he spoke to Mail the following Sunday – and shared the note – to "defend" himself against an inaccurate representation of him in People.
Meghan named her five friends before the High Court in a confidential schedule that was kept secret. In a public document, she called them Friends A through E. They cannot be named
She identified Friend A as the one who told people that the letter said, “Dad, I'm heartbroken. I love you. I have a father. Please stop bullying me through the media so we can fix our relationship. & # 39;
Meghan claimed that this was an "unfortunately inaccurate" representation of her letter and emphasized several times that she knew nothing about her closest friends' decision to go public.
She released a list of those with whom she had discussed the "private" letter in the High Court filings – two of her friends, Prince Harry, her mother Doria Ragland, the press team at Kensington Palace (KP), and her lawyer.
Her lawyers informed the High Court that she had told "some of her friends" about the fact that she had sent a letter, and that she also shared the contents of the letter with her husband, mother, friends A and C, the CP , discussed communication team and their lawyer & # 39 ;.
Meghan insisted more than a dozen times in the legal document last week that she had no prior knowledge of her friends' interview with People.
She added that she was so little involved in the People Article process that she only found out about it the day it was published.
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