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The Sussexes

High Court judge rules that Meghan can be accused of “collaborating” with Finding Freedom authors

Nils Jorgensen / i-Images

A High Court judge has ruled that the Mail on Sunday can rely on ‘Finding Freedom’ as a source of defence in their upcoming trial against the Duchess of Sussex.

Master Kaye of the Chancery Division said in her preliminary ruling that allegations made by the Mail on Sunday accusing Meghan of collaborating with the authors of the biography may quickly collapse at trial, but that the newspaper was allowed to put forward the allegations as part of the defence.

Master Kaye said: “There is always the risk with an inferential case that it will fall apart at an early stage if the inferences start to unravel.

“But these are clearly matters for the trial judge.

“It may be what it does not say rather than what it does say that might prove to be significant at trial.

“If, as suggested, it’s all a house of cards, it will quickly fall down at trial.”

The trial between the Duchess of Sussex and Associated Newspapers has been provisionally set for 11 January 2021, with the Meghan calling four witnesses to testify, and Associated Newspapers calling three witnesses.

This Preliminary Hearing took place to establish whether the Mail on Sunday could seek the court’s permission to amend its written defence, arguing that Meghan “co-operated with the authors of the recently published book ‘Finding Freedom’ to put out their version of certain events”.

Lawyers representing the Duchess say that neither she or Prince Harry “collaborated with the authors.”

In a hearing last week, Justin Rushbrooke QC said: “The claimant and her husband did not collaborate with the authors on the book, nor were they interviewed for it, nor did they provide photographs to the authors for the book.”

However, Master Kaye’s judgment means that the couple can be accused of “collaborating” with the authors, with the matter to be used as a defence by the Mail at trial next year.

The decision is a blow for the Duchess of Sussex, who now faces legal bills of nearly £180,000.

She has spent £139,000 in the preliminary hearing, and was ordered today to pay a further £39,000 towards the newspaper’s legal costs after losing Tuesday’s ruling.

Finding Freedom, written by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, was released in August 2020.

Meghan is suing Associated Papers over five articles which were published in February 2019. These stories, published in the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, reproduced parts of a letter she wrote to Thomas Markle shortly after her wedding to Prince Harry in 2018.

The publisher argues that the had no reasonable expectation of privacy and that she anticipated publication of the letter.