Judge Mark Warby said Thomas Markle Sr. is not an important witness in Meghan Markle's U.K. court case against Associated Newspapers — which publishes the Mail on Sunday — so he does not need to give evidence in person.
"It was not immediately obvious to me why he was considered to be important," Warby said on Wednesday, November 18, in reference to the paper's lawyers, who deemed Thomas to be an important witness. "It is not suggested that Mr. Markle's evidence ... is an essential component of the defence case."
Warby said there was "no apparent impediment" for the paper's lawyers to take a deposition or form of an independently recorded statement from Thomas in advance. The judge noted the former actress' father could provide evidence in a video link if he is not well enough to travel. The judge also said Thomas "has (quite rightly) not been told the confidential basis for the adjournment application."
Prior to the judge's ruling, the case raised the prospect of Thomas having to give evidence in court against his daughter, 39, at the High Court in London. Meghan is suing the paper for publishing a private letter she sent to her estranged father in August 2018, just weeks after her wedding day. Meghan's lawyers are seeking aggravated damages for the breach in privacy and copyright.
In September, Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) alleged Markle leaked information about herself to the Finding Freedom authors, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, which allowed her to "set out her own version of events in a way that is favorable to her." Despite her lawyer, Justin Rushbrooke, fighting that claim, the judge is allowing the defense to use the biography, and Markle cannot appeal against the ruling.
However, the Duchess of Sussex previously had a small victory in her 10-day trial against Associated Press on Thursday, October 29. Warby held a private hearing to consider Meghan's request to have the trial — which was supposed to begin on January 11 — pushed back to fall 2021. The judge accepted her request based on "confidential grounds" and explained, "The right decision in all the circumstances is to grant the application to adjourn."
While the Suits alum was satisfied with the result, her father was far from pleased. Thomas previously explained he wanted the trial done "as quickly as possible" due to his declining health. "I am a realist and I could die tomorrow," Thomas told the court, adding that his family members usually don't live past 80. "The sooner this case takes place the better.
"I am 76-years-old and as a result of my heart condition and surgery I am on blood thinners which have had an effect on my breathing. I am unable to walk far or up many stairs," the father of three said. "I can't manage to take more than 30 to 40 steps without getting winded and needing to slow down until I have caught my breath."
Meghan has not seen her father since their falling out prior to her wedding day with Prince Harry in 2018, which he missed due to his health. Meghan later noted — in her lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday — her father did not attend her wedding because he was "so publicly shamed" after staged paparazzi photographs of himself surfaced prior to their royal wedding.