The identities of five friends who form a key part of Meghan Markle‘s case for invasion of privacy after parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father were published will not be made public for now, the High Court ruled today.
Mr Justice Warby upheld an application by Meghan’s lawyers that their identities should remain secret.
The five women were named as the sources of a People magazine article in 2019 in legal papers submitted by Meghan to the court earlier this month, although their identities were not made public.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Warby said that this was an unusual scenario because it was a newspaper publisher that wanted the identity of the sources revealed.
He added that the decision to keep the identity of the friends anonymous was an interim one. If any of them are called as witnesses to the trial, which is expected to take place next year, their identities could still be revealed, subject to a court decision.
Mr Justice Warby said he had concluded that ‘for the time being at least’ the duchess should be granted an order which protects the identities of the five individuals.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex leave the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London on March 9 this year
The judge said: ‘This is an unusual case, the roles are reversed. A newspaper publisher wishes to publish the identity of the five sources. The claimant is opposing this, maintaining that the sources are confidential and provided information that appeared in People magazine.
‘The court orders that the identity of the five friends remain confidential in the interests of the administration of justice. This is an interim decision.’ Mr Justice Warby then set out the details to the background to the application.
The judge expressed frustration in his judgment at the speed the case has been proceeding at, insisting that it needed to move faster.
He said: ‘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 comes next.’
Meghan Markle is suing Associated Newspapers Limited over an article in The Mail On Sunday which reproduced parts of a handwritten note she had sent to her father Thomas Markle (pictured together) in August 2018
Mr Justice Warby set a window of next January to April for when a trial could take place, lasting between five to seven days.
The friends were named as the sources of a People magazine article in February 2019 in legal papers submitted by Meghan
The People article lies at the heart of Meghan’s privacy and copyright case against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), publishers of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline because it was the first time the existence of a letter the Duchess had written to her father Thomas Markle was revealed.
Meghan is suing ANL over an article which reproduced parts of the handwritten note she sent to Mr Markle, 75, in August 2018, three months after he was unable to walk her down the aisle following a heart attack.
ANL maintains that it was the five friends who were responsible for bringing the letter into the public domain when it was referred to in the People article, and that she was aware of it.
Meghan, 39, maintains that she had no prior knowledge that any of them had spoken to People magazine until after it was published.
A court document presented by Meghan’s legal team during a hearing last week to keep their names out of the public spotlight insisted: ‘To disclose their identities to the public at this stage is an unacceptable price to pay for the right to pursue her claim for invasion of privacy’.
ANL argues that revelations in People and the misleading impression it gave of the letter entitled Mr Markle to publish more of the handwritten note in The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline to defend himself as the relationship with his daughter became more estranged.