LONDON – Prince Charles won a court judgment Friday barring publication of more extracts from a private diary, but a judge ordered a trial to determine if other journals acquired by a newspaper should stay private.
The ruling triggered speculation the prince could be called to testify. But Charles' office said the heir to the throne would not take the witness stand.
"The Prince of Wales will never give evidence even if it goes to a full trial," said his private secretary, Sir Michael Peat.
Charles had sued the publisher of the Mail on Sunday newspaper for breaches of confidentiality and copyright. The paper had published extracts from a diary he kept during a 1997 visit to Hong Kong, in which he referred to Chinese officials as "appalling old waxworks."
High Court Judge William Blackburne ruled Charles could claim damages from the newspaper and could seek a permanent injunction to protect the Hong Kong journal.
However, Blackburne said he was unwilling to bar publication of seven other journals reportedly sold by a former employee without knowing what they contained. He ordered another hearing to determine whether they should be returned to the prince.
The judge said there was "every reason" to conclude that Charles was also entitled to an expectation of privacy for the other seven journals, but was unwilling to grant a summary judgment without knowing what the journals said.
"For all the court knows, circumstances may arise which may make disclosure an entirely appropriate exercise of the defendant's right of freedom of expression," Blackburne said.
Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Mail on Sunday, said it would appeal.
The company said publishing the diaries was in the public interest because they revealed the political beliefs of the man who would be king.
"It cannot be legitimate for the prince to claim the right to engage in political controversy and at the same time deny the public the right to know that he is doing so," Associated Newspapers said.
"These issues will be heard not only in our appeal over the Hong Kong journal, but also in the trial relating to the other seven journals which the judge has agreed we should retain."
The new hearing raised the prospect the prince could be called to testify at the High Court.
A specialist in media law said Charles could not be forced to testify, but suggested the prince could not win otherwise.
"There's absolutely no way the prince can bring home this case successfully without giving evidence under oath to explain his actions," said Mark Stephens, a partner in the media and entertainment law firm, Finers Stephens Innocent.
"If he were anyone else in the country, he would be cross-examined," said Stephens, who is not involved in the case.
Publication of the prince's sometimes curmudgeonly political views — and the claim by a former aide that Charles often wrote to politicians to offer his "dissident" opinions — also raised questions about the role of the monarchy in modern Britain.
Charles' caustic comments about Chinese officials in the Hong Kong journal drew particular attention.
"For the handover this hall had been transformed into a kind of Great Hall of the People of Peking. After my speech, the (Chinese) president detached himself from the group of appalling old waxworks who accompanied him and took his place at the lectern," Charles wrote.
Members of the royal family have rarely appeared in court.
Charles' sister, Princess Anne, was in court in 2002 to plead guilty to a charge that one of her dogs attacked two children.
Queen Victoria's heir, the future King Edward VII, gave evidence in a divorce case in 1870 when he was accused of being a lover of Lady Mordaunt. In 1891, he testified on behalf of a friend who had been accused of cheating at baccarat.