Meghan Markle understood that a letter at the centre of a privacy breach row with a British newspaper could be leaked by her father, a court was told Wednesday.
Associated Newspapers Limited on Tuesday began an appeal against a ruling that its publication of parts of the letter to Thomas Markle breached her privacy.
A judge in February ruled the handwritten letter was “personal and private” and said publication was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”, ordering Associated to print a front-page statement acknowledging her victory.
The publishers of the Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail and MailOnline have not yet done so because of the appeal, in which lawyers for the publishers argue that the letter was written with the knowledge that it could be made public.
Jason Knauf, who was communications secretary to Meghan and her husband Prince Harry until March 2019, said in a statement to the Court of Appeal in London that the duchess had told him that she had known it was possible that her father would release the letter.
Texts between her and Knauf included a draft of the letter and a message from Meghan reading: “Obviously everything I have drafted is with the understanding that it could be leaked so I have been meticulous in my word choice, but please do let me know if anything stands out for you as a liability.”
In a written statement to the court, Meghan denied she thought her father would actually leak the letter.
“While we had to recognise that anything was possible in the extraordinary circumstances in which we were living and therefore the need to mitigate against the risks of disclosure of the letter’s contents, I did not think that my father would sell or leak the letter, primarily because it would not put him in a good light,” she said.
– ‘Toiled over every detail’ –
Meghan, 40, communicated with her father by letter rather than via electronic message so that individual sections could not be cut and pasted and then published, said Knauf.
“As part of a series of messages on 24 August 2018, she explained that she had given careful thought to how to prevent the letter being leaked in part or in a misleading way,” he added.
“In the event that it was leaked she wanted the full narrative as set out in the letter to be understood and shared. She said she had ‘toiled over every detail which could be manipulated’.”
Meghan successfully sued Associated over a series of articles based on the letter for breach of privacy, copyright and data protection.
But Associated lawyer Andrew Caldecott argued in court that “the picture presented to the judge on behalf of the claimant … was that this was an entirely private letter crafted for Mr Markle’s eyes only.
“The position we now have is a different position and a more nuanced one, that the letter was written and crafted with readership in mind, and indeed she was happy for the public to read it if Mr Markle were to leak it,” he added.
He said Knauf’s evidence cast doubt on the original ruling, adding that the case should have gone to a full trial.
The case is due to last up to three days with judgment expected at a later date.
The letter to her 77-year-old father was written a few months after Meghan’s wedding to Harry, 37, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson.
In it, Meghan asked her father to stop talking to tabloid newspapers and making false claims about her in interviews.