The “thoughts and feelings” of Meghan Markle’s father have been deemed a “relatively minor” part of the court case she is battling with the Mail On Sunday, a judge has ruled.
Meghan, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd, publisher of Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, over articles that include sections of a letter she had written to her father Thomas Markle.
In October, Meghan asked the judge for a nine-month delay on the eventual court date for confidential reasons.
Justice Warby granted the delay at the time, but in a written ruling delivered on 18 November, added his ruling on the “thoughts and feelings” of her father, and said Markle did not know why his daughter wanted the delay.
Markle has been identified as a potential witness by ANL, and so the judge was commenting on the importance of his evidence.
After the last hearing, it emerged that Markle, 76, had said he might not be alive if the trial was delayed.
In a statement to ANL’s lawyers he said: “I am a realist and I could die tomorrow.
“The sooner this case takes place the better.”
The case was due to go to trial from 11 January, but the trial will now begin in autumn 2021.
In the ruling, much of which was redacted, the judge said he could not see any evidence that Markle would not be able to give evidence later in the year.
He said Markle’s “subjective thoughts and feelings do seem to be, on any objective view, a relatively minor aspect of the case overall”.
He added: “It is not suggested that Mr Markle’s evidence on those topics is an essential component of the defence case.
“More importantly… there is no suggestion that Mr Markle would not be available to give evidence later next year. There is, in particular, no medical evidence suggesting that a delay would make his availability less likely.”
He continued: “The evidence before me included not only an account of Mr Markle’s situation and health but also an account of his views and feelings about a possible delay to the trial. But it was not suggested that his feelings on that matter should guide my decision.”
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Justice Warby also said he “will not set out much in the way of details of the application, the private and confidential information, or the evidence about it”.
He said it was “unnecessary, and undesirable” to divulge the details of the private request by Meghan’s lawyers.
He said it was “quite right” that Markle had not been told why his daughter required the nine-month delay.
The Duchess of Sussex announced her case against ANL in October 2019 after a royal tour in South Africa.
She is seeking damages after the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline published extracts of a letter she wrote her father in 2018 after her wedding to Prince Harry.
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’.”
Meghan says publishing the letter breached her copyright and is misuse of private information.
ANL denies the allegations her team has made against it.
ANL says the letter could not be deemed private because the duchess’s friends referenced it in an article to People magazine.
The two parties have already made several appearances in court, with ANL winning a battle on part of her case, while she was able to keep the names of her friends who spoke about the existence of the letter confidential.
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