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Harry, William, their Mum and privacy

by on 9 Jun, 2007

Channel Four 1; The Princes:0

It was good to see that Channel Four did not buckle under the open pressure Princes Harry and William exerted over the documentary about Diana’s death.

The whole affair had some quaint sidelines to it. Not the least of them was having a senior aide view the documentary and then write on their behalf what their reaction would have been if they had seen it. The aide complained that Channel Four would not release a tape of the documentary for them to see. Yet the aide was able to trot along to Channel Four’s offices to see it. Would that be too much to ask of the Princes if they really wanted to judge it?

Good chance of an injunction
The most welcome part of it was that the Princes did not reach for their lawyers. With the way that privacy law is developing in England and Wales, they might have had a good change of gaining a pre-broadcast injunction, at the least.

Their action could have been triggered by Article 8 of the Human Rights convention now in UK law as a result of the 1998 Human Rights Act.

Article 8, headed Right to respect for private and family life says: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

There are two paragraphs in the letter sent to Channel Four which focus on the issue of privacy:

“These photographs, regardless of the fact that they do not actually show the Princess’s features, are redolent with the atmosphere and tragedy of the closing moments of her life.

“As such, they will cause acute distress if they are shown to a public audience, not just for themselves, but also on their mother’s behalf, in the sense of intruding upon the privacy and dignity of her last minutes.”

There’s that word again: privacy.

I doubt that this is the end of the issue. The documentary is broadcast. But in future I expect them to move more swiftly for their lawyers. It will set a very unhealthy precedent for UK media. But I suspect that they have an unhealthy attitude to freedom of expression already.

Dad’s done it
After all, their old man has used the law to squash further publication of his diaries. Diaries in which he made very derogatory remarks about foreign leaders, among others. And diaries which he had circulated himself to a select band. But not for us to see what our next monarch really thinks.

What does “respect” mean?
As for the boys, it all hinges on the word “respect” in Article 8. I can’t find a definition of respect in the standard legal dictionaries I’ve got access to. If somebody else can find a definition, please tell me. It will, surely have to be defined somewhere in case law.

The full text of the letter from Clarence House.

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