Meghan Markle’s anonymous friends caught up in case against Mail On Sunday could avoid giving evidence

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read

Watch: Why is Meghan Markle suing the Mail On Sunday?

Five of Meghan Markle’s friends who have been caught up in her legal action against the Mail On Sunday could avoid having to give evidence in court if she wins a battle to bypass a full trial.

Meghan, 39, is suing the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline after they published sections of a letter she wrote to her father Thomas Markle a few months after she married Prince Harry.

In the letter, she said her father had broken her heart into a million pieces, following a series of interviews he had done about his daughter.

Markle, who lives in Mexico, was meant to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding, but did not make it to London, citing a heart attack shortly before the day.

Meghan wrote to Markle in August 2018, about three months after she married Harry.

Read more: Why is Meghan Markle suing the Mail on Sunday?

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 02:  Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a Creative Industries and Business Reception on October 02, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Harry and Meghan, pictured in South Africa in 2019, shortly before they announced the legal action. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

But in February 2019, a group of her friends went to People magazine to defend her, and mentioned the private letter she had sent her father.

A few days later, the Mail On Sunday published the letter and an interview with Markle.

Markle said it was the People magazine piece that led him to allow the letter to be seen by journalists and be published. Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), which publishes the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline, says it was the People magazine article that first spoke of the letter’s existence.

Meghan has always maintained that she did not know her friends were going to speak to People, and in August she was able to secure their anonymity in court.

But the order was not a permanent ban on naming the five people, and Meghan also sought and won a delay on the case, which now won’t go to full trial until autumn 2021.

A court ruling seen by Yahoo UK, dated 7 December, reveals the defendant, ANL, sought to get evidence from those five people released via courts in other countries - likely the US.

Mr Justice Warby has ruled that cannot happen for now, and might never be allowed.

Meghan is also applying to have the case heard by summary judgment, preventing a full trial. It would mean a judge would simply look at each side of the case and make a ruling without hearing live evidence from witnesses.

Read more: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle flirt in trailer as they launch their own podcast

If Meghan wins that, and the case is heard by summary judgment, then the people involved won’t have to find themselves in the dock giving witness statements.

Even if she doesn’t win that request, she might still find her friends are able to stay anonymous because the order will remain live, meaning they can’t be named.

The duchess asked for a delay to proceedings in October, which she was granted, but the reasons for her request were kept private.

She has had to admit in recent weeks that she did allow a friend to give her side of the story to authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, who wrote a biography about Harry and Meghan, which was released in the summer.

Meghan insists that she did not meet the authors themselves and was not formally or informally interviewed by them.

ANL has denied it breached privacy or copyright.

Watch: Harry and Meghan feature in Archewell Audio Spotify trailer