Media challenge confidentiality in Mail on Sunday litigation
The Prince of Wales has suffered a set back in the case he has brought against the Mail on Sunday after the High Court ordered that he supply to the media copies of a witness statement he claims is confidential.
The Prince commenced proceedings in the High Court after the Mail on Sunday published extracts from his journal on the Hong Kong handover in 1997, in which he described Chinese diplomats as “appalling old waxworks”. He claims that the article, which printed extracts from his journal entry entitled The Handover of Hong Kong – or The Great Chinese Takeaway, was a breach of confidence and an infringement of his copyright and applied for summary judgment.
The hearing of the summary judgment application is expected to be listed in the week beginning 21 February 2006. As part of its defence of the application and the claim, the Mail on Sunday obtained a witness statement from the Prince’s former Deputy Private Secretary, Mark Bolland.
Five media organisations sought access to Mr Bolland’s witness statement at an application before Mr Justice David Richards in the High Court in London. The Prince’s lawyers argued that the contents of Mr Bolland’s witness statement were confidential and indicated that they intended to apply for part of the forthcoming hearing to be held in private.
The media organisations – BBC, ITN, Guardian, Times Newspapers & Independent News – pointed out that much of Mr Bolland’s evidence was already in the public domain as a result of an article in The Evening Standard published on 13 January 2006 and an article appearing in The Times on 21 January 2006. They sought access to Mr Bolland’s witness statement in order to be able to make an informed challenge to any application by the Prince for any part of the next hearing to be in private.
The Judge ordered that disclosure of Mr Bolland’s witness statement should be limited to one in-house lawyer and one senior employee of each media organisation.
In the Evening Standard article, Mr Bolland claimed that the Prince’s Journals were not confidential and that there had been discussion about possible publication of an edited version of the journals in a book. Further, Mr Bolland claimed that the Prince had given him “a direct instruction… to create as much drama” as possible about the Prince’s boycott of the Chinese State Visit in 1999.
- Mail on Sunday in court battle over Prince Charles diaries – Media Guardian
- 5RB case report of earlier hearing.