Meghan Markle’s five friends who spoke to magazine will remain anonymous, judge rules in explosive court battle.
Meghan Markle has won her legal bid to protect the identities of five friends who spoke to People magazine, as her court battle against publishers Associated Newspapers and the Mail on Sunday continues.
In a ruling on Wednesday, British judge Mr Justice Warby concluded that “for the time being at least” the Duchess of Sussex should be granted an injunction which protects the anonymity of the five individuals “in the interests of the administration of justice,” The Mirror reports.
He described the ruling in favor of Meghan, 39, and her legal team as an “interim decision.”
The unnamed friends gave unattributed quotes to People magazine in February 2019 defending the duchess against negative media coverage, which she claims they did without her knowledge or permission.
The US-born royal is suing Associated Newspapers (ANL), the publisher of the Mail on Sunday, after excerpts from a “private and confidential” letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, after her wedding to Prince Harry were republished without her permission.
She claims publishing the correspondence was an “invasion of her privacy” but ANL argues its existence was already in the public domain after being discussed by her pals in the anonymous magazine interview.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Warby described the scenario as “unusual” as the media is usually fighting for protection of its sources, The Sun reports.
“The media invariably maintain that the names of sources should not be disclosed,” he said. “In this case the roles are reversed – the media wants to publicize the names of five sources, while the claimant wishes them to remain confidential.”
The judge said preparations for the high profile trial, which does not yet have a date, should now “move forward at a greater pace”.
A source close to Meghan Markle’s legal team said following the win during her court battle: “The Duchess felt it was necessary to take this step to try and protect her friends — as any of us would — and were glad this was clear.”
The statement continued: “We are happy that the Judge has agreed to protect these five individuals.”
While Meghan Markle may have emerged victorious in this court battle to protect her close friends, the judge warned that both camps had attempted to sway public opinion outside the courtroom, the Daily Star reports, creating a “frenzy of publicity” and a “febrile atmosphere”.
The Duchess of Sussex is said to have been reprimanded after engaging in a “tit-for-tat” war of words with the publisher, who was also condemned for “selectively” highlighting aspects of her case with a focus on “sensational reporting”.
“It is tolerably clear that neither side has, so far, been willing to confine the presentation of its case to the courtroom,” he said.
“Both sides have demonstrated an eagerness to play out the merits of their dispute in public, outside the courtroom, and primarily in media reports.
“This approach to litigation has little to do with enabling public scrutiny of the legal process, or enhancing the administration of justice. Indeed, in some respects it tends to impede both fairness and transparency.”
The privacy win comes one day after the former “Suits” actor celebrated her 39th birthday in Los Angeles with husband Harry and their son, Archie.
The Duke and Duchess were not present during Wednesday’s proceedings, which have taken place under strict coronavirus measures restricting access to the courtroom, People reports.
The court battle between Meghan Markle and ANL has been going for 10 months and the judge declared Wednesday that the matters are “still some way from trial”.
On May 1, Meghan lost the first stage of her first skirmish, when Justice Warby agreed to”strike out” parts of her claim in a pre-trial hearing, including allegations that the publisher acted “dishonestly” by leaving out certain passages of the letter.
In response, Meghan said she would “continue to move forward” with her case.