UK paper being sued by Meghan disputes her concern about privacy


By Michael Holden

LONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Lawyers for a British newspaper that is being sued for invasion of privacy by Meghan, the wife of Britain's Prince Harry, have argued that she is content for details of her private life to be made public, citing a recent book about the royal couple.

Meghan, officially titled the Duchess of Sussex, is suing publisher Associated Newspapers over articles the Mail on Sunday printed last year that included parts of a handwritten letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018.

In documents submitted to London's High Court on Monday, lawyers for the paper said "Finding Freedom", a biography of Harry and Meghan published in August, "gives every appearance of having been written with their extensive cooperation".

After the biography was published, a spokesman for the couple said they were neither interviewed for the book nor contributed to it.

The Mail's lawyers say Meghan's alleged cooperation with the book's authors is relevant to their defence case because it suggests that she did not object to her privacy being breached as long as she approved of what was being published.

The paper argues that its publication of her letter to her father in Feb. 2019 was justified by Meghan's own "media fightback", which consisted of anonymous interviews given on her behalf by five of her friends to the U.S. magazine People.

Meghan denies that her friends were acting on her behalf.

Seeking to formally add the issue of the book to their case, the Mail's lawyers argued that if its contents were untrue, it was "inevitable" that Meghan would have sued, which she was not doing. That, they argued, suggested that the contents were true.

"This strongly suggests that the authors were given to understand that (Meghan) approved of the book," they wrote.

One of the authors, Omid Scobie, has given a witness statement in support of Meghan in which he describes the book as "an independent and unauthorised project". The Mail's lawyers said they would want to cross-examine Scobie about that.

The trial is scheduled to start on Jan. 11 and to last between seven and 10 days. At a hearing on Monday, the court was told there would be seven witnesses, of whom four will appear on behalf of Meghan.

The court document showed that Meghan's legal team had budgeted just under 1.8 million pounds ($2.3 million) for the case, which the Mail said was "wholly disproportionate to the issues raised or the complexity of the claim".

($1 = 0.7771 pounds)

(Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Estelle Shirbon and Mike Collett-White)

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