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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before