Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Prince Charles wins privacy battle over his personal diaries

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The Prince of Wales on Thursday won a resounding legal victory concerning his privacy as the court of appeal in London ruled that the Mail on Sunday newspaper had infringed his copyright and confidentiality by publishing extracts from his private diaries.

Prince Charles took action after the newspaper published parts of his 1997 diary about the handover of Hong Kong. In his account, "The Great Chinese Takeaway," he referred to the Chinese hierarchy as "appalling old waxworks."

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, sitting with Lord Justice May, said that the information published was private and public disclosure was an interference with the prince's private and family life guaranteed under the Human Rights Act.

Dismissing the paper's appeal, he said: "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."

A lawyer, Dan Tench, said this was one of a spate of privacy decisions from the courts all so far favouring the claimant.

"It appears these decisions represent a tectonic shift, the moment when the English courts are truly recognizing a legal right to privacy," he said.

The court had heard that the journal was one of eight given to the newspaper by Sarah Goodall, a secretary in the Prince's private office from 1988 to 2000. She published a memoir, The Palace Diaries, revealing some of the prince's eccentric habits.

The journals were handwritten accounts that Charles made following foreign visits over the past 30 years and which he circulated "in confidence" to between 50 and 75 people.

Phillips said Goodall had signed a contract that "placed her under a duty to keep the contents of the journal confidential," and that there was "an important public interest in employees in the position of Ms Goodall respecting the obligations of confidence that they have assumed."

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