A senior judge decided to seal Prince Philip’s will for 90 years, where an appeals court did not harm the public interest by excluding the media from hearings.
Sir James Eddy QC, representing the Attorney General, argued on the second day of appeals by the Guardian against the decision to seal Philip’s will at a hearing, of which the press was excluded.
In September last year, the Chairman of the Family Court, Sir Andrew MacFarlane, ordered that the late Duke of Edinburgh be sealed for 90 years and that the value of his estate be not disclosed.
The wills of 33 members of the Windsor family have been closed from public access over the past century following requests from their executors. The judiciary has never declined such a request concerning the deceased members of the Windsor family.
Eddie told the court that “the principle of open justice is not immutable” and that two factors in favor of privacy that MacFarlane relied on—the dignity of sovereignty and privacy—were not disputed by the Guardian.
He also argued that there was a distinction between the private property of the Windsor family and the money received by the family from public money, arguing that the size of the annual stipend to be provided by Parliament for the maintenance of the monarchy would be a matter of legitimate public . Arguably, Philip’s estate would not have value.
“The [president] Such context drew clear conclusions about the public curiosity, and the essentially commercial interests of the press, and they distinguished those things from genuine and true matters of public interest in the legal sense,” Eddy argued.
This week The Guardian reported that at least £187m of the estate had been passed on in a secret will by the Windsor family.
Representing the executors of Philip’s will, Jonathan Crowe QC stated that the public interest was represented by the attorney general, who agreed with the executors that the will should be secret. Referring to the attorney general, Crowe said: “The defenders of the public interest agreed with the outcome, and the process we were urging.”
Asked by the Court of Appeals judges whether a process could have been arranged by which the press was asked to appear on confidential terms, as has been the case in other sensitive cases, both Crowe and Eddie argued That there would be practical difficulties in arranging such a measure.
He also argued that any of the 33 sealed wills identified as a result of MacFarlane’s original decision could now apply for opening.
Caiolfione Gallagher QC, representing the Guardian, argued that there was a “sliding scale” of options to be considered by the president, such as a hearing that journalists could see but could not report on until the decision was issued.
In response to the executors’ claim that the Guardian’s submissions represented “an utterly barren procedural appeal”, Gallagher argued that “procedural fairness is an important part of natural justice, and is not to be dismissed”.
She said the failure to consider how and how to solicit the views of the press had “blooded out” the resulting consideration of the public interest, in which the president decided that the secrecy and dignity of the sovereign justified keeping the will secret, but Do not hear any arguments from the press or historians in favor of openness.
“It is hard to imagine a more serious interference with the open justice principle than the approach adopted in this case,” Gallagher said.
The decision will be pronounced later.