Meghan Markle & Prince Harry warned her dad he could risk their kids' privacy if he'd staged paparazzi photos

MEGHAN Markle and Prince Harry warned her dad he could risk their children's privacy if he staged paparazzi shots, a court heard today.

The Duchess of Sussex, 39, is suing the Mail on Sunday for privacy copyright and data protection over five articles published in February 2019.

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This includes extracts from a handwritten letter she sent to her dad Thomas Markle, 76, in August 2018.

Lawyers for the Duchess today revealed Meghan and Prince Harry asked if he was staging photos, to which he told them he wasn't.

Thomas Markle was then told he could risk the privacy of any children they may end up having if he were found to be lying. The couple's son Archie was not born at this time.

Justin Rushbrooke QC said the issue was a "matter of concern" as the Duke and Duchess were ready to "go into bat" with a legal complaint to stop the pictures being run if he hadn't staged them.

'MESSAGE OF PEACE'

He added: "He was told if they try do that and it fails because it is true that risks the privacy of any children of theirs thereafter.

"In other words you only get one shot of this. We can't make legal complaint if factually misconceived."

Lawyers for the Duchess earlier told the High Court the publication of the "intrinsically private, personal and sensitive" letter was a "triple-barrelled invasion of her privacy rights".

Justin Rushbrooke QC described the 1,250-word letter as "a heartfelt plea from an anguished daughter to her father".

He said it was not "a vicious or unwarranted attack" on her dad but was instead "a message of peace".

'HEARTFELT PLEA'

The last line – included in court documents – read: "I ask for nothing other than peace and I wish the same for you."

The papers add: "It is a heartfelt plea from an anguished daughter to her father (the word 'pain' or 'painful' appears no fewer than five times), begging him to stop talking to the press."

Mr Rushbrooke said: "It was written, in short, by daughter who felt she had reached a breaking point with her father."

The barrister told the court Meghan had sent it to Thomas Markle "at his home in Mexico via a trusted contact … to reduce the risk of interception".

He described its subsequent publication as a "plain and serious invasion" of privacy.

But lawyers for Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) claim it was written "to defend her against charges of being an uncaring or unloving daughter".

Antony White QC argued "there is a very real question as to whether the claimant will be able to establish that she had a reasonable – or any – expectation of privacy".

He said Meghan having a "fear" her letter might be intercepted showed she "must, at the very least, have appreciated that her father might choose to disclose it".

'GRASP THE NETTLE'

But Mr Rushbrooke argued the publication of the letter breached the duchess's right to "respect for her correspondence", as well as her right to "her private and her family life".

The barrister told the court that ANL's defence raised "a disturbing question about who has the right of control over the contents of a private letter".

Mr Rushbrooke added: "Is it the writer of the letter or the editor of the Mail on Sunday?"

He continued: "There can only be one answer to that question and the answer would be the same irrespective of whether or not the writer of the letter is a duchess or any other citizen, and the answer is it is not the editor of the Mail on Sunday."

Ian Mill QC, also representing the Duchess, argued "she and she alone" created a draft of the letter to her father "which she then transcribed by hand" in regards to her copyright claim.

He argued the letter was "an original literary work in which copyright subsists and is owned by the claimant" and asked the court to "grasp the nettle and decide the issue at this hearing".

This was disputed by ANL, who say Jason Knauf – ex-communications secretary to Harry and Meghan – had "involvement" in writing it.

Mr White claimed there is a "real prospect" the Duchess "will fail to establish she was the sole author in the copyright sense".

The barrister added: "No truly private letter from daughter to father would require any input from the Kensington Palace communications team."

COURT SHOWDOWN

Meghan's lawyers also applied for a "summary judgment" to be handed down, which would swerve the need for a trial and witnesses.

Top judges at the High Court in London will now decide whether to push on or decide on Meghan's claims now.

But ANL say the facts of the case can only be determined by a trial.

If the case goes ahead, both Thomas Markle and Meghan could take to the stand in the high-profile trial.

In a witness statement previously read before the court, Thomas said: "I am a realist and I could die tomorrow.

"The sooner this case takes place the better."

The blockbuster case – one of several brought recently by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex against media organisations – was filed by Meghan's lawyers in September 2019.

It was due to be heard at the High Court this month but was adjourned for nine months due to a "confidential" reason.

A string of pre-trial skirmishes have erupted in the build-up – including Meghan's claims ANL had an "agenda" of publishing intrusive or offensive stories about her being struck out as "irrelevant" last May.

In return, a bid to name five of Meghan's pals who gave an anonymous interview to People magazine were dismissed in August.

But in a sensational move, the MoS was given permission to rely on the unauthorised biography of Harry and Meghan, Finding Freedom by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, in its defence.

ANL claimed the Duchess had "compromised" any expectation of privacy in relation to the letter by allowing details of her private life to be published in the biography.

The remote hearing before Mr Justice Warby, which is expected to last two days, continues.


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