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EDITIONS
Monday, 4 November, 2002, 16:41 GMT
Blair backs Queen over trial
Paul Burrell after the collapse of his trial
Concern about what Burrell would say?
The Queen acted "entirely properly" throughout the trial of former Royal butler Paul Burrell, the prime minister has insisted.

Tony Blair said he was sure the Crown Prosecution Service would look at the "lessons that can be learned" from the trial which collapsed on Friday.


We have received sacks of mail from all round the country and it is very moving and touching

Paul Burrell
But he argued that it would not have been right for Buckingham Palace to interfere with the conduct of the case.

His defence of the Queen came as Mr Burrell spoke out, thanking the British people for their "tremendous support" and saying he had "a great story to tell".

The Daily Mirror newspaper said on Monday night that it had acquired exclusive world rights to the former royal butler's story.

Editor Piers Morgan told BBC News 24 the paper was paying Mr Burrell "about 300,000".

On Friday Mr Burrell was found not guilty of three charges of stealing from the estate of Diana, after it was revealed he had told the Queen he was keeping some of the princess' possessions.

This prompted Labour left-winger Dennis Skinner to write to the Lord Chancellor to question the Queen's role in the judicial system following the aborted trial.

Keep a cool head

Mr Blair told reporters at his monthly press conference: "I am sure the CPS will look carefully at the lessons that can be drawn from it, but I think this was a highly exceptional case, a unique case you might say.

"And I don't think it's right for me to speculate on the reasons why the case collapsed.

Princess Diana with Paul Burrell
Mr Burrell told the Queen he was looking after Diana's things
"I think it's important that we don't rush to judgement on some of the other constitutional issues involved.

"The Queen acted, in my view, entirely properly throughout.

"I don't think it is right that we change the rules in relation to the Queen giving evidence in court."

Mr Blair said he was told at his audience with the Queen last week that Buckingham Palace had passed on information to the prosecuting authorities.

This information led to the collapse of the trial with Mr Burrell, speaking to LBC Radio, saying that subsequently "the great British public has been a tremendous support".

'Foot the cost'

He said: "We have received sacks of mail from all round the country and it is very moving and touching. I just cannot believe that so many people out there actually care."

But Dennis Skinner claims the Queen withheld vital information and joined others in raising doubts over whether the trial should have been held at all.


The Royal Family have been neglectful

Dennis Skinner
The Bolsover MP says the Royal Family should be forced to foot all the costs of the aborted trial, which are estimated to cost the taxpayer 1.5m.

Mr Skinner, an anti-monarchist, said the Royals were architects of their own demise and should be treated like everybody else.

"That's why I have written to the Lord Chancellor because I am drawing his attention to the fact that this case highlights more clearly than any other ... that the Royal Family have been neglectful," said Mr Skinner.

"It's pretty clear that they allowed this case to proceed in the knowledge that, right up to the end almost, when Paul Burrell was due to take the stand, they didn't disclose the fact that he had an audience with the Queen."

'Pay up'

He stressed: "I don't see why anybody, the Royal Family, the high and mighty should not be subject to the same laws as everybody else."

He told BBC News 24: "It was a Royal Family case and I would say they should pay the lot.

"I don't believe that you and your viewers, who are taxpayers, should have to foot this bill."

Meanwhile, MPs are planning to table a Commons early day motion that will, according to reports, question the Queen's role within the judicial system.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman, said the Royal Family or the Spencers, Princess Diana's family, could avoid criticism if they were to consider making a contribution to the cost of the trial.

Buckingham Palace has stood by its original statement that "the investigation and the decision to prosecute Paul Burrell was entirely made by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Former royal butler, Paul Burrell
"It's not been easy for me and my family"
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The prime minister stepped into the row"
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Mr Blair is a strongly monarchist politician"

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