KEY POINTS

  • Meghan Markle disclosed the identities of her five friends in a confidential document given to Associated Newspapers
  • Markle’s five friends gave interviews to People last year, defending the duchess against media bullying
  • The Duchess of Sussex has applied for an order to keep the five women's identities secret

Meghan Markle does not want the names of her five friends who participated in a 2019 People article to become public amid her privacy-infringement lawsuit against The Mail on Sunday, Britain’s High Court heard Wednesday.

At a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Markle applied for an order to keep hidden the names of the five women who gave interviews to People last year to set the record straight regarding the former actress' relationship with her estranged father, Thomas Markle Sr. The identities of her friends were disclosed in a confidential document that was given to The Mail on Sunday's publisher, Associated Newspapers ⁠— who Markle is suing for publishing excerpts from a private letter she sent to her father.

"These five women are not on trial, and nor am I," Markle wrote in a witness statement (via Time). "The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial. It is this publisher that acted unlawfully and is attempting to evade accountability; to create a circus and distract from the point of this case—that the Mail on Sunday unlawfully published my private letter."

The Duchess of Sussex's legal team told the court that she finds revealing their identities to be an "unacceptable price to pay" for her legal claim against The Mail on Sunday, The Telegraph reported.

"Forcing the claimant [the duchess], as the defendant urges the court to do, to disclose their identities to the public at this stage is an unacceptable price to pay for the right to pursue her claim for invasion of privacy against the defendant," Markle's lawyers said.

Associated Newspapers claimed the former actress "compromised" her friends' right to privacy "by putting their names into a public court document."

However, Markle's lawyer, Justin Rushbrooke QC, said this was a "grotesque perversion of what's actually happened."

"The friends are not parties to this action, but unwilling participants. At this early stage of the litigation, it cannot be said with certainty that they would be witnesses at the trial," he continued.

While Markle believes that naming her friends would breach their privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights, Associated Newspapers believes they must be disclosed as a key principle of "open justice."

Meanwhile, Antony White QC, representing Associated Newspapers, told the court that the five friends were identified not under compulsion but as part of a request for further information.

The five friends have only been identified by the initials A to E in documents. 

Judge Mark Warby is expected to make a ruling on Markle's friends' anonymity by mid-August.

Meghan Markle Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex attends the Commonwealth Day Service on March 9, 2020 in London. Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage (via Getty Images)