The Duchess of Sussex’s allegations that articles in the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline caused a dispute between her and her father are “objectionable”, the High Court has heard.
Lawyers for publisher Associated Newspapers said Meghan’s claim that her father was “harassed” and “manipulated” should not form part of her case.
The duchess is suing after articles reproduced parts of a letter she sent to Thomas Markle.
The publisher denies the allegations.
Meghan is suing for invasion of privacy, breach of data protection and copyright infringement, after two articles in the Mail on Sunday and three on MailOnline published the handwritten letter in February 2019.
She claims contents of the letter to her father were selectively edited in a misleading and dishonest manner.
Associated Newspapers argues Meghan had no reasonable expectation of privacy and anticipated publication of the letter.
At Friday’s virtual preliminary hearing, the publisher’s legal team asked for parts of her case to be struck out.
Antony White QC, representing Associated Newspapers, told Mr Justice Warby that some of the allegations made by Meghan were irrelevant and not made with a proper legal basis.
‘Stir up issues’
He added that the allegations relating to her father were made without any attempt to contact him to see if he agrees with them.
“In this context it appears that the claimant has seen fit to put these allegations on the record without having spoken to Mr Markle, verifying these allegations with him or obtaining his consent (she admits … that she has had no contact with him since the wedding),” he said.
In court documents prepared for the hearing, Mr White said the duchess alleges the publisher was “one of the ‘tabloid’ newspapers which had been deliberately seeking to dig or stir up issues between her and her father”.
“This is an allegation of seriously improper deliberate, i.e. intentional, conduct to the effect that the defendant’s motive was to seek to manufacture or stoke a family dispute for the sake of having a good story or stories to publish,” he said.
Mr White told the court that such “complex tests of mental state” of the publisher are “irrelevant to the claim for misuse of private information”, and asked the judge to strike out that claim.
He said the duchess’s allegation that the publisher “acted dishonestly” when deciding which parts of her letter to her father to publish.
“It is extremely common for the media to summarise or edit documents when reporting current events, and that is not a basis for an allegation of dishonesty,” he added.
David Sherborne, acting for Meghan, argued additional articles published by Associated Newspapers about the duchess should be taken into consideration in support of her privacy action, but not as part of the claim.
He said: “It is very much about the claimant’s state of mind.”
Mr Sherborne added this was about “the distress she feels about the realisation that the defendant has an agenda and that this is not a one-off” and not about damage to reputation.
It is understood Harry and Meghan, who have relocated to California after stepping back as senior royals, will listen to the parts of the hearing conducted by her lawyers.
Associated Newspapers had asked for Friday’s hearing to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic but Meghan’s legal team rejected this and said she “considered it was unreasonable to accept the offer”.
Instead the hearing was held remotely with Mr Justice Warby sitting in his court in front of several computer screens while counsel called in from elsewhere.
Last week Harry and Meghan announced they would no longer work with several British tabloid newspapers, including the Mail as well as the Sun, Mirror and Express, over “distorted, false or invasive” stories.