Kensington Palace aides helped the Duchess of Sussex write an apparently ‘private’ letter to her estranged father Thomas Markle, court documents claimed today.
Meghan Markle is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over an article which reproduced parts of the handwritten letter sent to Mr Markle, 76, in August 2018.
The duchess has claimed the Mail On Sunday publisher breached data protection and copyright laws by revealing extracts from the ‘private and confidential’ letter.
But lawyers for ANL have claimed in documents filed at the High Court in London that the letter was not the ‘own intellectual creation’ of the 39-year-old royal.
They argue that the Kensington Palace communications team ‘contributed to the writing’ of an electronic draft, which the letter was later ‘copied’ from.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex leave the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London on March 9 this year, on their final royal engagement before they quit royal life
Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers Limited over an article which reproduced parts of a handwritten note she had sent to her father Thomas Markle (pictured together) in August 2018
The documents state: ‘It is for the claimant (Meghan) to prove she was the only person who contributed to the writing of the electronic draft.
‘Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the defendant (ANL) infers that Jason Knauf and/or others in the Kensington Palace communications team contributed to the writing of the electronic draft.
‘Precisely which parts were the result of such contribution is uniquely known to the Claimant, Jason Knauf and others in the team.’
It comes after it emerged the duchess’s privacy action against ANL will not be heard until autumn next year after being postponed last month for a ‘confidential reason’.
Mr Justice Warby agreed on October 29 to adjourn the trial – which was due to start on January 11 next year – until the autumn following an earlier private hearing.
Thomas Markle shows a souvenir he keeps on mantelpiece of Harry and Meghan from their wedding he was unable to attend, during his Channel 5 documentary in January this year
A court artist’s sketch of Mr Justice Warby (bottom left) Antony White QC (bottom right), for ANL and Meghan’s lawyer David Sherborne during a virtual High Court hearing on April 24
The judge said the private hearing was necessary to protect ‘the confidentiality of the information relied on’ by Meghan in her application to postpone the trial.
The confidential information was said by the judge to be the ‘primary’ reason for the duchess wanting the trial to be adjourned – and ANL did not oppose her application.
However, ANL’s lawyers did ask the judge to consider Mr Markle’s situation, saying he is ‘elderly and sick’ and wants and intends to give evidence at trial.
The judge said other reasons put forward by the duchess’s legal team in support of the postponement included Meghan’s application for summary judgment – a legal step in which Meghan is seeking to have the case resolved without a trial.
Harry and Meghan after their wedding in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018
The court will hear the summary judgment application in January next year, when Meghan’s lawyers will argue that ANL’s defence has no prospect of succeeding at a trial.
Her lawyers also brought a bid to challenge another judge’s ruling which allowed ANL to rely on an unauthorised biography of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, called Finding Freedom, in its defence of the claim – which was rejected by Mr Justice Warby.
At a separate remote hearing last month, Judge Francesca Kaye dealt with issues relating to disclosure of relevant documents ahead of the trial.
The judge refused an application by Meghan’s lawyers for Paul Dacre – the former editor of the Daily Mail and current editor-in-chief of DMG Media, ANL’s holding company – to be added as a ‘custodian’ of potentially relevant documents which were said to relate to the publisher’s belief that publishing the duchess’ letter to her father was in the public interest.
Mr Justice Warby (pictured) agreed on October 29 to adjourn the trial – which was due to start on January 11 next year – until the autumn following an earlier private hearing
Sections of the letter to Mr Markle 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’.’
The duchess is seeking damages from ANL, the newspaper’s publisher and operator of the website, for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.
ANL wholly denies the allegations, particularly the duchess’s claim the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning, and says it will hotly contest the case.
Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers over five articles, two in the Mail On Sunday and three on MailOnline, which were published in February 2019.