Judge reprimands Meghan over public spat
A judge has slammed Meghan Markle's "tit-for-tat" High Court battle and both sides' "eagerness" to play out the dispute in public.
The Duchess of Sussex is suing Associated Newspapers (ANL), the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, after a "private" letter she sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle, 76, was revealed.
She claims publishing the letter was an "invasion of her privacy" but ANL says its existence was already in the public domain after being discussed in an anonymous interview given by five of her friends to People magazine.
According to The Sun, on Wednesday, Mr Justice Warby ruled the identities of Meghan's friends must remain confidential "in the interests of justice" - saying the decision had been made "for the time being".
But in a 20-page document, the High Court judge also criticised the parties involved - Meghan and the publishers of the Mail on Sunday - for being involved in "tit-for-tat criticisms of one another".
He said: "It is however tolerably clear that neither side has, so far, been willing to confine the presentation of its case to the courtroom.
"Both sides have demonstrated an eagerness to play out the merits of their dispute in public, outside the courtroom, and primarily in media reports."
In the judgment documents, he described Meghan's statements during the case as "hyperbolic assertions".
The Duchess has released a number of statements as the case is prepared for trial, including that the publisher was being "vicious" for allegedly wanting to name her friends "for no reason other than clickbait and commercial gain".
Mr Justice Warby said there was evidence that the Duchess' side had been "energetically briefing" the media about the proceedings "from the outset".
Meanwhile, he said the lawyers for the Mail on Sunday had not proved their claim that Meghan and Harry's motivation for the case was "to afford them an opportunity to wage their own campaign against the press".
Mr Justice Warby said there was also evidence the Daily Mail had written stories about the case based on documents that had not yet been filed to the court.
Winning her High Court battle to keep the identities of Meghan's five friends who spoke to People magazine, a source close to the Duchess' legal team said: "The Duchess felt it was necessary to take this step to try and protect her friends - as any of us would - and we're glad this was clear.
"We are happy that the Judge has agreed to protect these five individuals."
In a written submission to the court, Justin Rushbrooke QC, representing the Duchess, said it would be "cruel irony" for the five friends - referred to in court as A to E - to be identified in the privacy case.
The High Court heard last week that Friend B had been the ringleader pal who "orchestrated" the explosive magazine interview defending the Duchess. And in a witness statement to the court, Friend C said she would suffer "intrusion into family life" if she was identified.
In the article published by People in February last year, the friends spoke out against the bullying Meghan said she has faced, and have only been identified in confidential court documents.
However, Antony White QC, acting for ANL, said the unnamed friends are "important potential witnesses on a key issue". ANL won the first skirmish in the legal action on May 1, when Mr Justice Warby struck out parts of Meghan's claim.
This included allegations that the publisher acted "dishonestly" by leaving out certain passages of the letter. Court papers have since shown Meghan has agreed to pay ANL's £67,888 ($A123,800) costs for that hearing in full.
No date for the full trial has been set. Meghan is suing ANL over five articles, two in the Mail on Sunday and three on MailOnline, which were published in February 2019 and reproduced parts of the handwritten letter she sent to her father in August 2018.
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'."
The Duchess is seeking damages from ANL for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act. ANL wholly denies the allegations.
This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission
Originally published as Judge reprimands Meghan over public spat