STEPHEN GLOVER: If Meghan Markle really wanted to fight for the truth, she would come to court. En, in a land of liberty, judges who are not awed by Royalty and cherish a free Press would allow a trial
Die Hertogin van Sussex loves to represent herself as a victim of an overmighty Press. Yesterday she will have delighted many of her less critical fans by laying it on as never before.
After her latest victory in the Court of Appeal in her battle against The Mail on Sunday, Meghan declared that in ‘the nearly three years’ since she began her civil action, she had been ‘patient in the face of deception, intimidation and calculated attacks’.
She did not, natuurlik, specify where or when or how these dreadful attacks took place.
If she was referring to what has happened in court, her statement is another example of her overactive imagination.
Meghan started a civil action against The Mail on Sunday after it had published excerpts from a long letter she sent to her father, Thomas Markle, who believes he was subsequently grossly misrepresented by her friends in an article published by the American magazine People.
Most people can probably see that in their crusade against the Press, Meghan and Harry are largely self-serving. They seek only favourable coverage and want their actions never to be examined or criticised
Those of us not familiar with the arcane workings of English law might assume that the newspaper would be given an opportunity to defend itself in a trial during which witnesses would be called and documents produced.
But that hasn’t happened. There has been no such trial because Meghan doesn’t want one. She has sought — and twice got, the second occasion being yesterday — what is called a summary judgment. This is a rare, if not unprecedented, procedure in a privacy case.
Three learned judges in the Court of Appeal, led by the Master of the Rolls, nie minder, have decided there is no need for a trial. In effect, they have made up their minds, without hearing the evidence, that Meghan Markle is in the right and the newspaper is in the wrong.
I have a few questions. If she were Meghan Markle of 2, Acacia Avenue, rather than HRH The Duchess of Sussex, would these same judges be so indulgent of her, and deny the newspaper the opportunity to defend itself?
Or are they influenced by the fact that, although she is estranged from the Royal Family, which she has criticised and impugned, she nonetheless remains part of the royal set-up and therefore must at all costs be kept out of a court of law?
And might these learned judges be displaying, whether consciously or not, a prejudice against the popular Press and in favour of celebrities who jealously guard every aspect of their privacy while striving to obtain the best possible media coverage?
I ask these questions because, during a three-day Court of Appeal hearing earlier this month, testimony was introduced which undermined Meghan Markle’s credibility as a witness.
The Duchess of Sussex was forced to apologise to the court for failing to remember that she had told a royal aide to brief the authors of the Finding Freedom biography, which was almost embarrassingly laudatory of her and Prince Harry
The Duchess of Sussex was forced to apologise to the court for failing to remember that she had told a royal aide to brief the authors of the Finding Freedom biography, which was almost embarrassingly laudatory of her and Prince Harry.
She had previously insisted through her lawyers that neither she nor her husband co-operated with the two authors of this gushing tome, and if staff had done so it was without her knowledge.
Tog, according to Jason Knauf —then her communications secretary, now working on Prince William’s staff — there were ‘multiple’ discussions and email exchanges about the book between its authors and Meghan, and between Knauf and its authors. These latter communications were authorised by Meghan.
How on earth could she have ‘forgotten’ daardie? It beggars belief. One can put out of one’s mind a single exchange, possibly two, but it is simply not believable that she forgot a whole sequence of them.
‘Lie’ is a damning word, and I shan’t use it. I’ll settle for ‘falsehood’, and not even insist on ‘deliberate’. But it was by definition a falsehood, and I submit that if Meghan Markle of 2, Acacia Avenue were guilty of such a misdemeanour, the judges might have taken a dim view.
Egter, in the case of HRH The Duchess of Sussex, the three Appeal Court judges were strikingly forgiving. There might have been an ‘unfortunate lapse of memory’ (is that what you call it?) but in any event it didn’t have any bearing on whether the private letter to her father should have been published.
I’d say — and I think most reasonable people would — that her misleading testimony calls into question her credibility. If I were a judge, I would want Meghan Markle’s veracity to be tested under cross-examination.
And I would also want, in the interests of justice, for documents to be exchanged and witnesses to be permitted to tell their side of the story. Dit, I repeat, has not been allowed to happen.
Ongelukkig, the aforementioned Jason Knauf didn’t produce his statement at the earlier hearing. There are three other former palace officials — members of the so-called Palace Four — who could also be willing to come forward with evidence. Yet this has not been heard, and may never be.
Who knows what hitherto undisclosed documents might reveal if Meghan and her lawyers were obliged to cough them up before a trial took place?
En dan, natuurlik, there is Thomas Markle, who wanted his daughter’s letter to be made public, and had to put up with nasty and untruthful allegations about him in People magazine. Isn’t he allowed a say?
Imagine what that famous and most just of judges, Lord Denning, might have done in such a case. Wouldn’t he have felt that natural justice demanded that both sides be heard in such a dispute?
Sekerlik, if a newspaper is accused in the way Meghan Markle has accused The Mail on Sunday, justice demands that it should be allowed to defend and justify itself in a trial. Let a properly constituted court make up its mind on the evidence.
Nor is it simply The Mail on Sunday’s good name that is at stake. Meghan Markle is trying to discredit the whole of the tabloid Press, possibly the entire Press, in a wholesale onslaught.
Consider what she said yesterday as she attempted to portray herself as a victim of media persecution. ‘The courts have held the defendant to account and my hope is that we all begin to do the same. Because as far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it’s not. Tomorrow it could be you.’
In an even more unbalanced vein, she hopes that ‘we are now collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel, and profits from the lies and pain that they create’.
Of course newspapers are sometimes guilty of excesses, but the idea that they work against the interests of ordinary people — which is what this multi-millionaire, highly privileged Duchess suggests — is absurd.
Most people can probably see that in their crusade against the Press, Meghan and Harry are largely self-serving. They seek only favourable coverage and want their actions never to be examined or criticised.
But I fear there are fans of the couple who will unthinkingly accept their depiction of the Press as malign and destructive. Meghan and Harry are engaged in a war to influence public opinion, and their grim objective is to neuter the Press.
This is an attack on Press freedom in which wild and damaging allegations are made by the Sussexes without evidence being produced. And The Mail on Sunday is deprived by English judges of the opportunity to defend itself.
If Meghan really wanted to fight for the truth, she would come to court. En, in what is supposed to be a land of liberty, judges who are not awed by Royalty and cherish a free Press would allow a proper trial.