Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex has lost the first round in her High Court battle against the Mail-on-Sunday, as a judge struck out parts of her pleadings as irrelevant.
The Duchess’s legal team will not be allowed to argue in court that the newspaper acted dishonestly, “stirred up” issues with her father, and had an “agenda” against her, Mr Justice Warby said.
Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers over the publication of parts of the handwritten letter to her father, which she claims breached her privacy, along with copyright and data protection laws.
In a strike-out hearing last week, her representatives argued they should be permitted to build a picture of the newspaper’s “bad faith” and “obvious agenda of publishing intrusive or offensive stories” about her.
But today, Justice Warby struck out those claims in a written judgement, saying they were irrelevant in law, presented to the court inadequately, or disproportionate to investigate.
The judge said: “Some of the allegations are struck out as irrelevant to the purpose for which they are pleaded.
“Some are struck out on the further or alternative ground that they are inadequately detailed.
“I have also acted so as to confine the case to what is reasonably necessary and proportionate for the purpose of doing justice between these parties.
“I do not consider that the allegations struck out on that basis go to the ‘heart’ of the case, which at its core concerns the publication of five articles disclosing the words of, and information drawn from, the letter written by the claimant to her father in August 2018.”
He added: “Some aspects of the case that I have struck out at this stage may be revived if they are put in proper form.”
A spokesman for Schillings, the Duchess’s legal team, said they were “surprised” to see the ruling “suggests that dishonest behaviour is not relevant” but noted: “We respect the Judge’s decision as the strong case against Associated will continue to focus on the issue of a private, intimate and hand-written letter from a daughter to her father that was published by The Mail on Sunday.”
The duchess is seeking undisclosed damages from Associated Newspapers for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.
Sections of the letter were published in the newspaper and online in February last year, with one headline promising to reveal “the letter showing true tragedy of Meghan’s rift with a father she says has ‘broken her heart into a million pieces”‘.
Associated Newspapers wholly denies the allegations, particularly the claim that the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning.
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