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Trial of Meghan Markle's privacy claim against newspaper postponed

The trial has been adjourned from January until “much later next year”.

File image of Meghan Markle in 2018.
File image of Meghan Markle in 2018.
Image: EMPICS Entertainment

A JUDGE HAS granted an application from the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle to postpone the trial of her case against a newspaper publisher until late next year. 

Markle (39) is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), publisher of the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, over an article which reproduced parts of the handwritten letter sent to her estranged fatther 76-year-old Thomas Markle in August 2018.

At a High Court hearing in London today, attended remotely by lawyers and members of the press, Mr Justice Warby agreed to adjourn the trial – which was due to start on 11 January next year – until the autumn following an earlier private hearing.

Mr Justice Warby told the court that, earlier this morning, he had conducted a private hearing from which the press and public were excluded.

The judge said he had considered an application by Markle’s lawyers to adjourn the trial of her case against Associated Newspapers Ltd, publisher of the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, from January until “much later next year”.

He added that the “primary basis” on which the adjournment was sought was “a confidential ground”.

Her application was not opposed by ANL.

However, ANL’s lawyers did ask the judge to consider the situation of Markle’s father, saying he is “elderly and sick” and wants and intends to give evidence at trial.

The judge said other reasons put forward by the duchess’s legal team in support of the postponement included her application for summary judgment – a legal step which would see the case resolved without a trial.

Granting the application to adjourn the trial, Mr Justice Warby said: “The right decision in all the circumstances is to grant the application to adjourn.

“That means that the trial date of January 11 2021 will be vacated and the trial will be refixed for a new date in the autumn.”

The hearing then proceeded to hear Markle’s application for permission to appeal against a previous decision that the Mail On Sunday’s publisher could rely on a recent biography of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in its defence to her privacy claim.

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Mr Justice Warby dismissed this application, saying: “Permission to appeal should be refused.”

In September, Judge Francesca Kaye allowed Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) to amend its written defence to argue that the Sussexes “co-operated” with the authors of Finding Freedom, which was published in August.

Jane Phillips, representing Markle, told Mr Justice Warby: “The new case ought not to have been allowed.

It was speculative, it was unsubstantiated by evidence and it was inherently implausible and, we say most importantly, it was bad in law.

She added that the new case was “not only a stab in the dark, but it was a stab in the dark in the wrong room”.

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