Thomas Markle not important witness in Meghan's UK court case, judge says

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, visits the University of Johannesburg

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – Thomas Markle does not appear to be an important witness in the London court battle pitting his daughter Meghan, the British royal, against a tabloid newspaper, so he need not give evidence in person, the judge overseeing the case said on Wednesday.

Meghan, the wife of Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry, is suing Associated Newspapers over articles in the Mail on Sunday that included parts of a handwritten letter she had sent to her estranged father in August 2018.

Her lawyers say the publication of the letter to her father was a misuse of private information and breached her copyright. They are seeking aggravated damages.

The case had raised the prospect of Markle giving evidence in court against his daughter, who he has not seen since they fell out on the eve of her glittering wedding to Harry in 2018, which he missed due to ill health and after he admitted posing for paparazzi pictures.

In her letter written months later, she expressed her hurt feelings about his actions although the paper argues it was an orchestrated part of a publicity cmapaign.

Last month, judge Mark Warby granted Meghan’s legal team their application to delay the trial, which was due to have started at London’s High Court in January, until the autumn of 2021.

In a ruling handed down on Wednesday, he gave a full explanation for that decision, although most of it was redacted because it involved “private and confidential information”.

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However, Warby did make reference to a witness statement from the paper’s legal director which described Markle as “an important witness”.

“It was not immediately obvious to me why he was considered to be important,” Warby said. “It is not suggested that Mr Markle’s evidence … is an essential component of the defence case.”

Warby said there was “no apparent impediment” to the paper’s lawyers taking a deposition or other form of independently recorded statement from Markle in advance, or to his giving evidence by video-link if not well enough to travel.

The judge also added that Markle “has (quite rightly) not been told the confidential basis for the adjournment application”.

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