Spencer renews battle with the media

Diana's brother loses legal battle for blanket ban on reporting his second divorce

When he denounced the media's lack of morality at his sister's funeral, it was clear there would always be an uneasy relationship between Charles Spencer and the journalistic world.

Yesterday, Princess Diana's brother was warned to brace himself for further scrutiny of the most intimate recesses of his private life as a judge rejected calls for a blanket ban on media coverage of his second divorce battle, issuing a landmark ruling that celebrities should be subject to the same principles of openness in the family courts as ordinary people.

Mr Justice Munby, sitting in the Family Division, dismissed claims by the Earl's counsel and that of his former wife Caroline Freud that reporting details of their divorce settlement served no public interest, and merely fed the media's "prurient" interest in the lives of the rich and famous.

The couple split three years ago when the Earl walked out on his wife and two children, then aged two years and four months. Despite the acrimony of the separation, they put on a united front to oppose the reporting of the case. The Government opened up family court proceedings to journalists in April after a hard-fought campaign by newspapers and other media organisations for access.

Nicholas Mostyn QC, representing the Earl, called for the couple's right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights to be respected, arguing that the object of the reforms was not to give the media carte blanche to report anything: "There is nothing interesting about this case apart from the fact that it is Earl and Countess Spencer. If this were two anonymous people there would be no press people in here at all. It would be fundamentally boring. We are going to be looking at housing and budget."

Lewis Marks QC, representing the countess, said there was "no public interest in the outcome of this case".

But Mr Justice Munby, who will consider further applications for injunctions today, said that agreeing to an exemption for the Spencers would set an unwelcome precedent. "That is dangerous territory because it potentially gives privilege to one group in the community over and above others," he said. If the claim succeeded it would establish one rule for celebrities and another "for those who live their lives in tranquillity and anonymity".

The Earl's first divorce from Victoria Lockwood in 1997, three months after Princess Diana died, became a humiliating daily soap opera as the world's media descended on Cape Town to witness his attempts to have the case heard before a South African rather than a British judge.

The Earl also sought to gag reporting of the proceedings, on the grounds that it would harm the welfare of his children by his first marriage. He eventually withdrew the application and instead found himself engaged in a public battle with his former wife, who was in recovery from addictions to drink and drugs and whose life had been blighted by eating disorders.

Critics claimed the Earl had sought to have the case heard in South Africa to limit the scale of the settlement and he pleaded poverty by claiming his fortune was tied up in his ancestral estate at Althorp in Northamptonshire, where his sister is buried. He eventually agreed out of court to pay his ex-wife $1.8m and hand over a $250,000 home in Cape Town.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
Passing on: George Washington died alert, aware and in his own bed. This is the kind of of death most people would like to have
health
Life and Style
fashion

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tv
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Brendan Rodgers as a manager, writes Paul Scholes
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Manager - £30,000 - Manchester City Centre

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This forward-thinking agency works with ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales - OTE £30,000

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a rapidly expanding offi...

Recruitment Genius: HVAC Project Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful candidate will b...

Recruitment Genius: Key Accounts Administrator - Fixed Term

£13500 - £14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting new opportunity has...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game