The Week in Review: Home News

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The Independent Online
IT HAD to be the most sensational of the recent crop of royal revelations. But it broke just before the release of a long-awaited report into regulation of the press. Tabloid newspaper editors, teeth gnashing in frustration, decided not to publish.

So it was that citizens from Australia to Amsterdam read the transcript of a taped, salacious conversation allegedly between the heir to the throne and a married woman, while the future subjects of the Prince of Wales were left in the dark.

Fax machines and photocopiers went into overdrive as copies of the transcript, which first appeared in an Australian magazine, were circulated around offices and pubs. Editors agonised over whether to publish the text, which eventually appeared in a tabloid, a regional paper and the Irish press.

As the Government dismissed claims that the security services had bugged royal mobile telephones, details of a dirty tricks campaign waged by British Airways against its smaller rival, Virgin Atlantic, were made public. BA was forced to apologise in the High Court and pay pounds 610,000 in libel damages to the airline and Richard Branson over the campaign, which Virgin said had included computer hacking, poaching of passengers, impersonation of staff, shredding of documents and press smears.

The press had thought that it might be off the hook after it emerged that the Prince and Princess of Wales had manipulated national newspapers to put forward rival accounts of their marital rift. Lurid stories about their relationship had been a key element in the case for a privacy law.

It was a leaked letter from Lord McGregor, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, to Sir David Calcutt, author of the review of press regulation, that overturned the image of the couple as innocent victims.

But while the Government had already rejected Sir David's central recommendation of a statutory tribunal with the power to levy heavy fines, it said that the civil law would be extended to protect personal privacy while new criminal offences would outlaw physical intrusion and covert surveillance.

Attempts to salvage oil from the wreck of the Braer tanker foundered amid the worst winter weather in Scotland for years. Heavy snow and blizzards closed airports, schools and roads, while floods swept much of Britain. The Braer finally broke up, discharging the remainder of its 84,500 tonnes of oil into the North Sea.

There is no substitute for love, as the younger royals are finding out to their cost. But admirers of the statue of Eros in London's Piccadilly Circus may have to make do with a replica - the 100-year-old landmark is beyond repair and may have to be 'retired' to a museum.