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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 14:31 GMT
Ruling awaited in Charles action
Prince Charles
Prince Charles wants the journals returned
Prince Charles's action to recover his private journals from the Mail on Sunday has ended at the High Court, with the judge reserving judgment.

Mr Justice Blackburne reserved his ruling after three days of hearings.

The prince is suing Mail on Sunday publishers Associated Newspapers for copyright and confidentiality breach.

The paper published comments in November 2005 made by the prince in one diary about China's regime. Prince Charles wants seven others returned.

'Public interest'

In the journal about the 1997 Hong Kong handover, published in the Mail on Sunday and released by the court on Wednesday, the prince described Chinese officials as "appalling old waxworks".

In another extract from the 3,000-word document, he described one ceremony as an "awful Soviet-style" performance and dismissed a speech by then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin as "propaganda".

Hugh Tomlinson QC told the court his client was entitled to keep those private thoughts and observations secret, and arguments that the journals should be published in the public interest were "far fetched".

He is asking Mr Justice Blackburne to give a summary ruling - a legal device whereby a finding can be made without a trial if it can be shown that the defence has no chance of success.

Lawyers say that, because of the high profile of the claimant and the issues of press freedom, the judge may call for a full trial.

This would then leave the prince open to cross-examination in the witness box should he decide to give evidence.

This eventuality was mentioned in the final moments of the hearing on Thursday as Mr Tomlinson referred to the disagreement between the two sides over the numbers who saw the journal.

The judge, commenting on what would happen if the issues had to be contested, said: "The other side is rather hoping the Prince of Wales would be turning up and be cross-examined."

Mark Warby QC, representing the Mail on Sunday, replied: "That is entirely a matter for him."

'Dissident views'

According to the Prince of Wales, copies of eight journals were handed to the Mail on Sunday by an ex-employee.

The publisher argued in court that his views were in the public interest.

"This case is about politics, political opinion and the role of the heir to the throne in relation to these issues," said Mark Warby QC.

The hearing also saw the release of a witness statement by Mark Bolland, the prince's private secretary between 1996 and 2002.

Mr Bolland said the Prince of Wales viewed himself as a "dissident" working against political opinion.


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