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Meghan Markle loses latest court fight as judge rules 'Mail On Sunday' can use 'Finding Freedom'

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex arrives at the British High Commissioner residency where she  will meet with Graca Machel, widow of former South African president Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg, on October 2, 2019. - Prince Harry recalled the hounding of his late mother Diana to denounce media treatment of his wife Meghan Markle, as the couple launched legal action against a British tabloid for invasion of privacy. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP) (Photo by MICHELE SPATARI/AFP via Getty Images)
Meghan Markle, here in South Africa in 2019, has lost the latest battle. (AFP)

Meghan Markle has lost the latest court battle against the Mail On Sunday, as a judge has ruled the paper can rely on extracts from a book about her in its defence.

Meghan, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) after it published extracts of a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle, in the weeks after her wedding to Prince Harry.

In the latest pre-trial showdown, ANL asked to amend its defence to argue that she “co-operated with the authors of the recently published book Finding Freedom to put out their version of certain events”.

Finding Freedom, written by royal correspondents Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, was released in August and contained new information about when Harry and Meghan were dating, and the first time Meghan met her brother-in-law to be Prince William.

Meghan’s lawyers deny either she or Harry had anything to do with the book, and even issued a scathing statement suggesting it was the subject of creative licence.

On the book’s references to the letter she sent to her father, and the subsequent reporting, Meghan’s lawyers pointed out the authors used references that were “extracts from the letter lifted from the defendant’s own articles”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Copies of 'Finding Freedom' are stacked up in Waterstones Piccadilly  on August 11, 2020 in London, England. Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of A Modern Family is a biography of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, written by Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie and published by Harper Collins.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of A Modern Family is written by Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie. (Getty Images)

Read more: Why is Meghan Markle suing the Mail on Sunday?

Delivering her verdict on ANL’s request to include the book, Judge Francesca Kaye said the amended defence did not raise “new defences” but added “further particulars”.

She said the Duchess of Sussex “knows the case she has to meet” and that “there is no suggestion that she is in fact unable to do so”.

It’s already the case that the duchess, who now lives in the US and is likely to join the case via videolink, will have to hand over months worth of communications, including texts, emails and call logs.

Justin Rushbrooke, representing Meghan, immediately asked for permission to appeal but it was denied. However they could take an appeal to the Court of Appeal.

He said the “inherent improbability” of Meghan co-operating with the book could be seen by “simply comparing what the defendant’s own articles said with what the book said about the letter”.

Last week, in written statements to court Rushbrooke said: “The claimant and her husband did not collaborate with the authors on the book, nor were they interviewed for it, nor did they provide photographs to the authors for the book.”

Scobie even provided a witness statement confirming the couple did not speak to him or Durand, adding: “They did not authorise the Book and have never been interviewed for it. The Book was always prepared on the understanding that it was to be independent and unauthorised. As journalists we wanted to be able to look into the other side of the story without worrying about offending any collaborators/sources.”

WATCH: Mail On Sunday can rely on recent book about Harry and Meghan

Speaking after the ruling, a spokesperson for Schillings, who are acting on The Duchess’s behalf, said: “The Court has today stated that The Mail on Sunday will be allowed to amend its legal defence for trial regardless of whether that defence is accurate or true, which based on legally sworn witness statements refuting the newspaper’s arguments, it is not. The Mail has been allowed to prolong this action and try contending its amended defence at trial, where we have no doubt it will fail. This defence has no merit and is in fact false.

“We were prepared for this potential outcome given the low threshold to amend a pleading for a privacy and copyright case. The Master made clear that if The Mail on Sunday’s defence is indeed weak and without evidence, it would be a house of cards and fall down at trial.

“This latest hearing was unfortunately another step in a case that has already been drawn out by a defendant who uses the legal process to exploit The Duchess’s privacy and the privacy of those around her for profit-motivated clickbait rather than journalism. As a reminder, it is The Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers who acted unlawfully and are the ones on trial, not The Duchess of Sussex, although they would like their readers to believe otherwise.”

This court battle is the third skirmish between the two parties since Meghan announced she was suing ANL at the end of a royal tour in southern Africa in October 2019.

Meghan won one, in which she applied to keep the names of her friends who spoke to People magazine about the letter, private, but ANL won the first, seeing her have to strike out parts of her case against them.

WATCH: Meghan denies collaborating with Finding Freedom authors

Read more: 4 court battles Harry and Meghan are currently fighting

The duchess, 39, says that she did not know her friends were going to speak to the magazine about the letter until she saw the published article.

In a statement to the court last week, the duchess’s lawyer said a section in Finding Freedom about the birth of Archie “appears to be the product of creative licence” and pointed out that Harry could not have texted his father, Prince Charles, because Charles doesn’t have a mobile phone.

Meghan is suing over five articles which appeared in the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline in February 2019 which included parts of the letter she had sent in August 2018.

The headline of the first Mail on Sunday 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 matter is to go to full trial in January 2021.