MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Step by chilling step, judges are protecting the rich and powerful- December 5, 2021

The American founding father James Madison warned long ago that the freedom of the people was in more danger from ‘gradual and silent encroachments by those in power’ than through violent and sudden events.

A verdict in the Court of Appeal last week shows this to be true.

Nothing could have been more stately and civilised than the dignified chamber where three highly educated, well-intentioned and experienced judges ruled in favour of the Duchess of Sussex, and against The Mail on Sunday.

The Duchess, better known to the world as Meghan Markle, proclaimed that the decision was a victory for all those who have ever ‘felt scared to stand up for what’s right’. Yet it is far from clear that this is the case.

A free press, with all its undoubted faults, has always been one of the great defenders of the small against the great. 

The mere existence of such a press, the fabled Fourth Estate of the realm, has changed the way we live.

The rich and the powerful know that at any time they are in danger of exposure by independent journalism. But what if a new and ever-expanding law of privacy makes such exposure too difficult and risky?

The implications for press freedom – and for the conduct of the law in general – are severe.

Perhaps most disturbing of all was the core of the ruling, that the Duchess had no need to make her case in court. 

If judges can decide – as they did – that they do not even need to hear evidence tested, and witnesses cross-examined, they have given themselves a new and frightening power in a strongly contested privacy case.

The whole idea of a trial has until now rested on the ability of both sides in a dispute to make their case before impartial justice. 

Has this idea now been suspended? Do the judges think themselves so wise that they no longer need to listen to argument?

By cindyloucbp

Cynthia is the typical Pisces! Her left brain activities include scientific activities in the hospital laboratory as a director. Her right-brain activites show as a painter, photographer and musician. She is known as the scientist who sings!

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