Meghan allowed to keep friends’ identities secret

The Duchess of Sussex has been allowed to keep the names of five friends who gave an interview about her secret in her case against the Mail on Sunday.

Mr. Justice Warby said she had won the High Court order to protect their names “for the time being at least”.

Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers for breach of privacy and copyright infringement after it reproduced parts of a letter sent to her father in 2018.

The publisher, which denies the claims, said her friends could be witnesses.

Associated Newspapers said the letter to her father Thomas Markle was first referenced in the interview given by Meghan’s five friends to the US magazine People.

In an article in the magazine in February 2019, the friends anonymously spoke out against the bullying Meghan said she had faced from Britain’s tabloid media.

They have only been identified in confidential court documents.

The application by Meghan’s lawyers to keep the friends’ names private was heard at London’s High Court last week.

Neither the duchess nor her husband, Prince Harry, attended the court.

In a witness statement submitted to the High Court, the duchess said Associated Newspapers was “threatening to publish the names of five women”.

“Each of these women is a private citizen, young mother, and each has a basic right to privacy,” she said.

Justin Rushbrooke QC, representing the duchess, said at the time that forcing her to disclose their identities would be “an unacceptably high price” to pay for pursuing her legal action against the newspaper.

But the publisher’s lawyers resisted the application to keep their identities secret, claiming the duchess’s friends brought the letter into the public domain when it was referred to for the first time in the People interview.

In written submissions, Antony White QC, acting for Associated Newspapers, said the friends were “important potential witnesses on a key issue”.

“Reporting these matters without referring to names would be a heavy curtailment of the media’s and the defendant’s entitlement to report this case and the public’s right to know about it,” he said.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are now based in California with their son Archie, having stepped back as senior royals at the end of March.

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