Prince Charles versus Mail on Sunday journals privacy row goes to trial

Dominic Ponsford

The Mail on Sunday’s bid to publish seven of Prince Charles’ “private” journals is to go forward to a full trial.

The High Court today rejected a bid for him to get a summary judgment (without trial) saying publication would breach confidence and copyright laws. But it did rule that publication of his Hong Journal was a breach of confidence.

The case was brought after the MoS published details of the Prince’s Hong Kong journal written in 1997 on the way back from the hand-over of the former colony in which he referred to the then Chinese leadership as “appaling waxworks”.

Mr Justice Blackburne said the Mail on Sunday had breached the Prince’s confidence by publishing this journal and ruled that compensation should be paid for this breach.

He said: “It would indeed be remarkable if, in the interests of press freedom, the claimant cannot enjoy confidentiality in the musings and reflections which “as a bit of fun” (to quote Mr Bolland) the claimant chose to commit to paper in the course of his return flight to this country."

With regard to the other journals, he said: “There is no evidence before the court to indicate what they contain. Beyond the fact that they are travel journals and concern overseas tours and that they were written and circulated in circumstances similar to the Hong Kong journal, I know nothing about them.

"In contrast to the Hong Kong journal I am not supplied with any lists of recipients. I am not told to how many persons each of those journals was sent.”

He added: “On what I have seen in the evidence there is every reason for concluding that the claimant establishes, as much in relation to the other seven journals as he does in relation to the Hong Kong journal, a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of their contents.

"That said, I am not willing on a summary application of this kind and without knowing anything of what the journals say to shut out the defendant from arguing at trial that the court should not prevent by a permanent injunction the further use by the defendant of information contained in those other journals when, for all the court knows, circumstances may arise which may make the disclosure an entirely appropriate exercise of the defendant’s right of freedom of expression.”

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