Meghan Markle has won the right to stop Associated Newspapers, the owner of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, from publishing the names of five of her friends who gave an anonymous interview to People magazine in her favour.
The judge revealed the sources’ identities would remain protected “for the time being” in documents obtained by ET Canada as the Duchess of Sussex’s court battle against the Mail on Sunday continued Wednesday.
Justice Warby said: “I have concluded that for the time being at least the Court should grant the claimant the orders she seeks, the effect of which will be to confer protection on the sources’ identities.”
He added: “That is confidential information, the protection of which at this stage is necessary in the interests of the administration of justice. This is an interim decision.”
Continuing, “Although it has been afoot for ten months now, the action has progressed slowly. It is still some way from trial. The weight to be given to the relevant factors may well change as the case progresses. Those that require that confidentiality should prevail over transparency at this preliminary, case-management stage, may fade or even evaporate if and when there is a trial at which one or more of the sources gives evidence.
“I have also concluded that directions towards a trial must be given promptly. The case has been slowed down by case management issues. It should now move forward at a greater pace. Disclosure, inspection and exchange of witness statements come next. The order that deals with the outcome of this application will fix a trial window, and an early Costs and Case Management Conference at which a timetable for those further pre-trial steps will be laid down, and budgets set.”
A spokesman for the Duchess of Sussex added, according to the Telegraph, “The Duchess felt it was necessary to take this step to try and protect her friends — as any of us would — and we’re glad this was clear. We are happy that the Judge has agreed to protect these five individuals.”
The friends have only been identified in confidential court documents. Meghan is suing the British tabloid paper and Associated Newspapers (ANL) for publishing a letter she wrote to her father Thomas Markle.
Justin Rushbrooke QC, representing the duchess, told the court: “To force the claimant, as the defendant urges this court to do, to disclose their identities to the public at this stage would be to exact an unacceptably high price for pursuing her claim for invasion of privacy against the defendant in respect of its disclosure of the letter.
“On her case, which will be tried in due course, the defendant has been guilty of a flagrant and unjustified intrusion into her private and family life.
“Given the close factual nexus between the letter and the events leading up to the defendant’s decision to publish its contents, it would be a cruel irony were she required to pay that price before her claim has even been determined.”
Antony White QC, acting for ANL, insisted the friends were “important potential witnesses on a key issue.”
“Reporting these matters without referring to names would be a heavy curtailment of the media’s and the defendant’s entitlement to report this case and the public’s right to know about it,” he stated.
“No friend’s oral evidence could be fully and properly reported because full reporting might identify her, especially as there has already been media speculation as to their identities.”
Newsweek’s Jack Royston also claimed both Meghan and the Mail on Sunday had been scolded for continuing the battle outside the courtroom.
According to legal documents posted, “Both sides have demonstrated an eagerness to play out the merits of their dispute in public, outside the courtroom, and primarily in media reports.”
The docs also stated, “This will be a judge-alone trial, not a trial by jury. But to fight proceedings in court and through litigation PR or sensational reporting at one and the same time is not designed to enhance understanding of the legal process.”
A stern telling off for both Meghan Markle and the Mark on Sunday for fighting a PR battle outside the courtroom. pic.twitter.com/dDL9dxg3je
— Jack Royston (@Jack_Royston) August 5, 2020