March 18

The Prince wins

As we said in this column on 24 February, 2006, it is inconceivable that the Mail on Sunday’s palpably sham defence of acting in the public interest in publishing Prince Charles ‘ private Hong Kong journal, which even the thief had wanted returned, could possibly stand.

 

Mr Justice Blackburne ruled on 17 March 2006  that the Mail on Sunday broke the law when it published extracts from another of the prince's journals, known as The Handover Of Hong Kong or The Great Chinese Takeaway.

 

 

The judge said it was now open to the Prince to claim for damages in respect of the Hong Kong journal and an injunction to prevent further infringement of his copyright.

Sir Michael Peat, the Prince's formidable private secretary, claimed total victory, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph on 17 March, 2006.

However the judge refused an appliacion for a summary judgement which would have avoided a full trial on all the other seven stolen journals in the possession of the newspaper. According to the Telegraph, Sir Michael believes  the Prince will not be called as a witness in future hearings about the other seven journals. The remaining issues can  be resolved by a meeting between lawyers after the judge had read the remaining journals.

The judge refused the newspaper permission to appeal against his rulings over the Hong Kong journal, but agreed to suspend the effect of his judgment pending an application to the Court of Appeal for permission.

There are two absolutely appalling aspects about this case. One is the willingness of employees to betray confidences, and not only in the theft of the journals.

In particular,  Joshua Rozenberg, the legal editor of the Daily Telegraph asked on 23 February 2006 how was it that Mr.Mark  Bolland, the former deputy secretary,  come to give evidence against the Prince, his former employer?

 

It is fortunate indeed that Sir Michael, a man of particularly sound judgement , was appointed rather than Mr Bolland , who aspired to the position and who seems to have left in a huff. He certainly was not going to have Sir Michael rein in his wilder plans. Pointing to the fact that Mr. Bolland wrote an article in the London Evening Standard, a sister journal of the Mail on Sunday, in which he said the prince's diaries were not regarded as especially secret, Mr. Rozenberg says that this was bound to lead to an invitation to give information on behalf of the Mail on Sunday. In due course the invitation arrived and, we suspect with alacrity, Mr. Bolland accepted

The other appalling aspect is the willingness of the newspaper to keep copy and use stolen material. Surely the criminal law has an answer to that. If someone steals my property I expect the law to protect me and the criminal to be punished, including any criminal who knowingly deals in my property.

Can you imagine the wailing if the editor were put in the modern equivalent of the Tower? 

Of course it won’t happen-the editor is more likely to be awarded damages against the Prince.

 For stress, I suppose.

 

 

 

 

 


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