Watch: Mail On Sunday claims evidence from ‘Palace Four’ could affect trial
A senior member of the royal household passed information about Meghan Markle’s alleged contact with the authors of a biography about her and husband Prince Harry to the Mail On Sunday’s editor, according to court papers.
Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), publisher of the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, after they published extracts of a letter she wrote to her father in 2018.
As part of proceedings, Edward Verity, the editor of the Mail On Sunday, has submitted a witness statement that details a meeting he had with a “senior member of the royal household”.
He says the source, who he referred to in gender-neutral terms to protect their identity, revealed Meghan’s former PR team was working to “open doors” for Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, who released the biography Finding Freedom last summer.
The book is unauthorised and Harry and Meghan denied any collaboration with the authors, who in turn have said they did not interview the royal couple for the biography.
Verity’s witness statement says the source told him: “Sara Latham, who worked as a communications professional for the Claimant and her husband, assisted the authors of Finding Freedom by performing a role that was essentially fact-checking, to make sure the authors got nothing wrong.
“A woman called Keleigh at Sunshine Sachs was responsible for making calls to 'open doors' to the authors of Finding Freedom.”
Sunshine Sachs is the US-based PR firm Meghan used before she quit acting to marry Harry.
While she did not formally use the company as a senior royal, she is connected with it again now that she is back in California.
Verity’s meeting took place sometime between September and December 2020, according to the statement, while proceedings were well underway.
Though Meghan has denied cooperating with Scobie and Durand, the duchess’s legal papers do reveal she allowed a friend, who had already been contacted by the authors, to give them the “true position” of the situation between her and her father.
Thomas Markle had said he was abandoned by his daughter in a string of media interviews. Meghan wanted to make sure there was no “further misrepresentation” in the biography, papers claim.
Meghan’s lawyers have also gone to great lengths to point out factual inaccuracies in the Finding Freedom book, including the drinks which the royal couple were said to have had on their first date and the words Harry said to Meghan at the altar on their wedding day.
Meghan’s legal team has made an application to have the case decided in a “summary judgement”, which would avoid the need for a full trial.
But ANL’s lawyers insist a full trial is needed, claiming the duchess’s case has “shifted” throughout the court skirmishes so far.
They have indicated they want to call on four former employees of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, including Latham, to the witness stand in court, to give evidence about the letter.
The Palace Four, as they have been dubbed, could offer evidence about whether or not Meghan “directly or indirectly provided private information (generally and in relation to the Letter specifically) to the authors of Finding Freedom”.
Meghan is seeking damages for breach of copyright and invasion of privacy.
In court, Meghan’s lawyers called the publication of the letter, in which she detailed the pain her father was causing her by conducting press interviews, a “triple barrelled invasion” of her privacy.
But ANL’s lawyers said the letter could not be deemed private, because five of Meghan’s friends mentioned it in an interview they gave to People magazine.
Meghan’s application for a swift resolution without full trial was heard by Mr Justice Warby at the High Court on 19 and 20 January.
He has retired to make a decision, and said it could be two weeks before he has made a draft judgement.
If Meghan wins, a judgement will be delivered by assessing the papers submitted to the court.
However if he sides with ANL, a full trial will have to go ahead in the autumn.
Though the Palace Four – Latham, as well as Samantha Cohen, Christian Jones and Jason Knauf – have said they are willing to give evidence, they emphasised that they would rather not be drawn into the case, and have confidentiality agreements they have to hold to.
Thomas Markle has already said he wishes to give evidence in court, even objecting to a delay in the case going to trial because he feared his poor health may mean he doesn’t make it to the later date.
Meghan would also likely have to give evidence in a trial, as would the friends who spoke to People magazine, who have so far remained anonymous.
Watch: Thomas Markle believes Meghan wanted her letter to him published, court hears