Mail on Sunday loses Prince Charles journals privacy battle

The Prince of Wales had an “overwhelming” case for the protection of his private journals three of the country’s top judges have ruled.

In doing so they rejected a challenge by Associated Newspapers who had gone head to head with the Prince in a court room clash over their publication in the Mail on Sunday of some of his leaked private journals.

London’s Appeal Court backed a High Court ruling earlier this year in which a judge dismissed claims that publication of the journals relating to the hand-back to China by Britain of Hong Kong was in the public interest.

In the journals the Prince described Chinese dignitaries who attended the handing over as “appalling old waxworks.”

Today, backing the High Court judgment Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips in a judgment backed by the Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke and Lord Justice May, said the court considered that Prince Charles had a “valid claim based on breach of confidence and interference with his Article 8 (human rights to privacy).”

He continued : “His case is overwhelming.”

He branded the argument put forward by Associated in its appeal as being “bereft of foundation.”

In the High Court the judge, Mr Justice Blackburn, granted the Prince “summary judgment” – judgment without the need for a fully contested hearing, against Associated.

He made his ruling on the basis that Associated has no realistic prospect of successfully defending the claim against it which was brought on the basis that the Prince’s privacy and copyright had been infringed.

Associated had argued that the judge was wrong to hold that the Prince had a reasonable expectation of his journals remaining private and that he was wrong to hold, without a fully contested hearing of the case that the Prince’s Human Rights to privacy outweighed the paper’s Human Rights convention rights to freedom of expression.

Lawyers for the Prince on the other hand had argued that the judge was correct in his approach to the case and the way he dealt with it.

In his judgment today the Lord Chief Justice said : “The information at issue in this case is private information, public disclosure of which constituted an interference with Princes Charles’ Article 8 rights. As heir to the throne Prince Charles is an important public figure.

“In respect of such persons the public takes an interest in information about them that is relatively trivial. For this reason public disclosure of such information can be particularly intrusive. The judge rightly had regard to this factor.”

Turning to circumstances in which the journal was leaked by Sarah Goodall who worked in Prince Charles’ private office and the content of the journal the judge continued : “Both the nature of the information and the relationship of confidence under which it was received weigh heavily in the balance in favour of Prince Charles.”

He said the court considered that the interference with the Prince’s rights to privacy outweighed the freedom of expression rights of Associated.

He continued : “Even if one ignores the significance of the fact that the information published had been revealed to Ms Goodall in confidence, we consider that the judge was correct to hold that Prince Charles had an unanswerable claim for breach of privacy. When the breach of a confidential relationship is added to the balance, his case is overwhelming.”

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