Meghan Markle: Royal expert gives court case update
The Duchess of Sussex is suing Associated Newspapers for alleged breach of privacy and copyright by the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline. Her legal team are applying for summary judgement in a hearing today which, if approved by Judge Warby, would end the case without it going to trial. The case centres around five articles containing extracts from a letter she sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle.
Associated Newspapers’ legal team requested, and were granted, permission to amend their defence after the publication of the book Finding Freedom.
The biography, written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, was published in August and was hailed as the book to set the record straight and show Prince Harry and Meghan’s side of the story.
However, the Duke and Duchess were swift to distance themselves from its release.
A spokesman for the couple said in July: “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were not interviewed and did not contribute to Finding Freedom.”
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Meghan Markle’s aide fact-checked Finding Freedom, according to a witness statement
Meghan’s father Thomas Markle on Good Morning Britain
What’s more, a lawyer representing Meghan, Jenny Afia, accused the book of telling anecdotes that were “either extremely anodyne and/or I understand are the product of creative licence and/or are inaccurate”.
However, Meghan admitted in November that she did help the authors of Finding Freedom by allowing a friend to speak to them.
In documents lodged with the High Court, Meghan claimed this was to counter her “father’s narrative” that she had cut him off.
She said she gave her own version of the story to be passed onto the authors “so the true position… could be communicated to the authors to prevent any further misrepresentation”.
Meghan and Harry stepped down as senior royals last year
However, she insisted, she did not provide “a copy of the letter or its contents, or a description of its contents, to the authors, whether directly or indirectly.”
Now, in a witness statement provided by Ted Verity, editor of the Mail on Sunday, it is claimed that there was more involvement than just this.
Mr Verity claimed that a senior member of the royal household told him that Sara Latham, who was Director of Communications for Harry and Meghan from April 2019 to April 2020, fact-checked the book.
He wrote that Ms Latham is said to have “assisted the authors of Finding Freedom by performing a role that was essentially fact-checking, to make sure the authors got nothing wrong”.
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Sara Latham is the former Director of Communications for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Ms Latham, who previously worked for Hillary Clinton, was hired by the Queen after Meghan and Harry stepped down as senior royals.
She is now a senior adviser on Platinum Jubilee and Special Projects for Her Majesty.
Mr Verity also said in his witness statement that, according to his source in the royal household, “a woman called Keleigh” at US PR firm Sunshine Sachs was responsible for “making calls to ‘open doors’ to the authors of Finding Freedom”.
Sunshine Sachs was hired by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in September 2019, although there were conflicting reports about what they were hiring them for.
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While the official line was that the firm would focus on publicising the Sussexes’ charitable efforts in the US, meaning it would promote projects close to their hearts like Harry’s sustainable tourism initiative Travalyst, some claimed it was to promote a positive public image of the couple themselves.
Meghan was a client of the firm when she was an actress and reportedly remained close to Keleigh Thomas Morgan, who runs the Los Angeles office.
Ms Morgan was also given a prime seat at Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May 2018.
Today is the second day of the summary judgement hearing.
Meghan’s lawyers have filed for a summary judgement on the grounds that Associated Newspapers has “no prospect” of successfully defending its publication of the letter extracts.
However, Associated Newspapers’ team insisted that the case “cries out for an investigation” and that an in-depth look at the facts in a full trial is necessary.
Finding Freedom was written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand and was published by Dey Street Books in 2020. It is available here.