FULL DETAILS OF THE REGISTRATION PROCESS AND AN APPLICATION FORM CAN BE FOUND HERE
MEGHAN Markle’s bid to win a ‘Summary Judgment’ in her case against the publishers of the Mail on Sunday will be streamed to the public, Byline Investigates can report.
Mr Justice Warby, the judge in the Duchess of Sussex’s action against Associated Newspapers over its 2019 publication of personal letters to her father, has ruled the public can log-on to the virtual hearing at the Chancery Division of the Royal Courts of Justice.
It means the arguments the Duchess’s legal team is making; that the paper’s breach of her privacy and copyright was so clear that it should be decided as such without need for a costly trial, can be heard without a media filter.
Media law expert Professor Paul Wragg believes the move could be good for the Duchess who, he said, has faced “skewed” mainstream reporting of the case up to now.
The Leeds University Prof. said: “So far, these proceedings have been played out largely in the media.
“Associated Newspapers Ltd, but not only them, have hailed every minor procedural determination in their favour as an epic victory.
“Consequently, public perception is vastly skewed. Indeed, the public could be forgiven for thinking ANL had already won.”
But the court’s move – a reaction to Covid-19 restrictions preventing public access to physical courtrooms – is unlikely to cause a server meltdown despite attracting a potential audience of millions of Meghan watchers worldwide.
This is because access will only be granted to people who successfully apply for it and give their names, mobile numbers, and email addresses, and agree to adhere to strict English Contempt of Court laws which forbid any recording or sharing of images of the proceedings.
Applications for access must also be made before a deadline of 4pm GMT on Friday, January 15, ahead of the important two-day hearing which starts Tuesday 19 at 10:30am although ‘attendees’ are required to log in by 9:30am, according to an order by the judge.
THE PUBLIC CAN APPLY BY EMAILING CHANCERYJUDGESLISTING@JUSTICE.GOV.UK BEFORE 4PM GMT 15/01/21 – ALTHOUGH THE COURT WARNS ACCESS IS NOT GUARANTEED AND MAY BE LIMITED. THE FULL ORDER WITH ENTRY FORM CAN BE FOUND HERE.
The move for Summary Judgment is highly significant, as if successful, it would spare the Duchess and her father Thomas Markle from facing each other in what would inevitably be a bruising courtroom showdown. However legal sources say any victory would likely be appealed.
One said: “This is an important phase in the legal process for the Duchess of Sussex and would be a great coup were it to succeed. But the reality is, if she wins, there will be a noisy challenge from ANL, whose greatest weapon in this case is its potential for mud-slinging well beyond the core issue of whether it was justified in publishing what appears to be private personal correspondence.”
Giving his reasons for the move, in a court order published January 4, Justice Warby wrote: “I have no doubt that the summary judgment application will be of considerable interest. It is more than merely procedural. Moreover, the issues on that application are of legal interest as well of general interest to members of the public.”
Adding that public broadcasting was being allowed because there would be no live witness evidence in the hearing, he added: “I would have been reluctant to direct a broadcast, if this had been a witness hearing. It is generally a daunting prospect to give evidence in a court.
“The pressures are likely to be all the greater if the evidence were to be given in front of a large audience of unseen strangers. It can be seen as contrary to the interests of justice to place witnesses under unnecessary pressure of this kind.
“But this hearing will not involve any witnesses. Indeed, it is not an application that (as I read it) calls for findings of fact.
“It is made on the basis that the defendant’s case could not realistically succeed even if the defendant proved all the facts it has alleged. The issues raised are matters of law, or mixed law and fact. The active participants will be Counsel and the Judge.”
Rules for broadcasting from the Royal Courts of Justice allow for a time delay to protect against the risk of Contempt of Court and any chance of public disturbances, and to ensure that broadcasters can comply with statutory regulations.
If the Summary Judgment or any subsequent appeal goes against the Duchess, then the case will remain on course for a full public trial in October or November, however there is doubt Justice Warby, who in his previous career as an eminent QC acted in media proceedings for both Claimants and Defendants – notably Associated Newspapers – will oversee it.
This is because he has been promoted to a seat at the Court of Appeal before the likely trial date, marking next week’s hearing as among his last in one of the most high-profile cases ever to come before the Royal Courts of Justice.