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Meghan Markle was PLEASED her five pals gave explosive People interview, bombshell court battle hears

MEGAN Markle was PLEASED her five pals gave an explosive magazine interview defending her, the High Court heard today.

Lawyers for Associated Newspapers, who the Duchess is suing over an alleged breach of privacy, argued Meghan "commended" the "flattering" interview.

Meghan Markle is set to fight to protect the identities of her five pals in the High Court today
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Meghan Markle is set to fight to protect the identities of her five pals in the High Court todayCredit: AFP
Meghan with her father Thomas Markle - who she claims the letter she wrote to him was private and confidential
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Meghan with her father Thomas Markle - who she claims the letter she wrote to him was private and confidentialCredit: Channel 5 / Thomas Markle: My Story
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are currently living in the US with their son Archie
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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are currently living in the US with their son ArchieCredit: EPA

The Duchess of Sussex, who is not in court today, has always denied giving her pals permission to defend her to People magazine over bullying she allegedly suffered while a royal.

In the article, published last February, the anonymous friends - known only as A to E - said they wanted to "stand up against the global bullying we are seeing and speak the truth about our friend."

They added: “Meg has silently sat back and endured the lies and untruths... It’s wrong to put anyone under this level of emotional trauma."

New court documents today reveal Meghan "does not complain" about what her pals said and was apparently "pleased with her friends' intervention".

But court docs claim she did not like a reference to the letter she wrote to her estranged father, which was later published by the Mail on Sunday and is now the basis of her legal privacy battle.

Meghan is trying to stop the names of the five pals - once close friends and confidantes - being published, claiming it would breach their privacy.

But publisher Associated Newspapers say the identities should be made public and argue the Duchess cannot fight for their privacy since she was the one who "freely" named them in court docs.

Lawyers for the newspaper said today: "They gave flattering material to People about [Meghan].

"[She] does not complain about what they did – in fact she appears to commend it.

"The information they disclosed to People was information about the claimant, but is not said by her to be private or information that she seeks to protect."

The bombshell interview with the US magazine also mentioned how Meghan wrote her estranged father Thomas Markle a letter - which was later published by the Mail on Sunday.

Meghan claimed this was an “unfortunately inaccurate” portrayal of her letter, claiming she didn’t know her friends would go public.

Justin Rushbrooke QC, representing the Duchess of Sussex, argued today the friends should be "owed" the same level of protection and anonymity any journalistic sources receive.

Meghan's lawyers claim:

  • Her five pals are entitled to a "high level of protection" - the same as any journalistic sources
  • They should be "owed duties of confidentiality" for speaking to People about her
  • Say it is an "unacceptable price to pay" for them to be named in her fight for privacy over her dad's letter
  • She claims the Mail on Sunday publishers have "been guilty of a flagrant and unjustified intrusion into her private life"

Meghan’s lawyer said the five pals gave the interviews anonymously and therefore should be given the same protection as any journalistic sources.

The Contempt of Court Act allows publishers and journalists to refuse to reveal their sources.

But the newspaper argued today that publishing the pals' names would not result in a "breach of trust" because the Duchess was happy with the article.

They added: "Further, it is not suggested by anyone, nor could it be, that the disclosure of sources in this case will lead to any sanctions or reprisals against any friend, as is sometimes the case where sources insist upon confidentiality out of necessity."

Arguing for them to be kept anonymous, Meghan's barrister told the court today that 'Friend B' was the ringleader who "orchestrated" the article.

In a witness statement, Friend C says she would suffer "intrusion into family life” if she was identified, the court was told.

He said: "We say at least four of the five sources have no real role at all on the issue raised by the defendant's defence regarding the interview with People magazine in the US.

"One of those, and only one on the claimant's case, made a passing reference to the letter written by the claimant to her father, which lies at the heart of this claim for invasion of privacy."

He added: "These were confidential sources who gave the interviews on condition of anonymity." 

There is a high public interest in protecting sources, he said.

Mr Rushbrooke also hit back at Associated Newspapers' argument that Meghan had "compromised" her friends' right to privacy "by putting their names into a public court document".

He said: "We say, on any analysis, that is actually a grotesque perversion of what's actually happened."

These five women are not on trial, and nor am I. The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial.

Meghan Markle

People magazine previously described the Duchess's five pals as "Meghan's inner circle – a longtime friend, a former co-star, a friend from LA, a one-time colleague and a close confidante'".

Meghan has said she did not give her friends permission to speak out, but has hit out at the prospect of them being named if they are to give evidence.

Earlier this month a witness statement as part of the application the Duchess said: "These five women are not on trial, and nor am I. The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial.

"It is this publisher that acted unlawfully and is attempting to evade accountability; to create a circus and distract from the point of this case - that the Mail on Sunday unlawfully published my private letter.

"Each of these women is a private citizen, young mother, and each has a basic right to privacy.

"Both the Mail on Sunday and the court system have their names on a confidential schedule, but for the Mail on Sunday to expose them in the public domain for no reason other than clickbait and commercial gain is vicious and poses a threat to their emotional and mental wellbeing."

'UNFORTUNATELY INACCURATE'

Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers over five articles, two in the Mail on Sunday and three on MailOnline, which were published in February 2019 and reproduced parts of a handwritten letter she sent to Mr Markle, 75, in August 2018.

The Duchess is seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

Associated Newspapers strongly denies the allegations, especially the claim that the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning.

Lawyers for Associated Newspapers have argued that her five pals, brought the letter into the public domain when it was referred to for the first time in the People magazine interview.

Only identified as Friend A, the person who told People magazine about the letter said: "She's like 'Dad, I'm so heartbroken. I love you. I have one father. Please stop victimising me through the media so we can repair our relationship'."

The publisher's defence document said: "Information in the People interview about the claimant's relationship and dealings with her father, including the existence of the letter and a description of its contents and the claimant's father's letter in response, could only have come (directly or indirectly) from the claimant."

It added that Mr Markle had revealed the letter to correct the "false" impression Meghan's friends had given about his actions in their interview.

The Duchess's legal team have claimed in court documents that she did not know the People Magazine article was due to appear, would not have agreed to the letter's contents being revealed, and after its publication she phoned Friend A to express "her distress".

Meghan and her husband Prince Harry are now living in the US after quitting the Royal Family earlier this year.

It comes as the Duchess of Sussex has been accused of colluding with a paparazzi photographer to set up shots of her entering a London restaurant.

Meghan was pictured going into Toto’s restaurant wearing a stylish white coat in Kensington during March 2015, the year before she met Prince Harry.

Sources told The Sun that the picture had been “pre-arranged” through her agent at talent firm Kruger Cowne – with a photographer heading to the venue specifically to snap her going inside.

Meghan was pictured entering Toto’s restaurant in London in March 2015
Meghan was pictured entering Toto’s restaurant in London in March 2015
Mr Markle did not attend his daugther's wedding
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Mr Markle did not attend his daugther's weddingCredit: Channel 5
Kate Middleton and Prince William hit back at claims Meghan Markle and Prince Harry felt shunned by Royal Family
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