The Court of Appeal this morning decided that the publication by The Sun of video stills of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed could not be justified on the grounds of fair dealing or public interest.
The images were taken by security cameras at the Villa Windsor, near Paris, which the couple visited on 30 August 1997 shortly before their deaths. They were stolen by the head of security at the villa and sold to The Sun.
Dodi Al Fayed’s father, Mohammed Al Fayed, claimed that the couple were intending to marry and had spent three hours at the villa considering it as a future home. In fact, the times printed on the security images of the couple arriving and leaving showed that their visit had only lasted for half an hour.
The High Court in March 1999 dismissed a copyright infringement claim against The Sun, accepting its defences of fair dealing for the purposes of reporting current events and public interest.
The Court of Appeal, finding against The Sun, held that the motives of those involved and the fact that the stills had not been published before, together with the fact that the head of security had been paid £40,000 by The Sun, meant that the newspaper was not entitled to rely on the defence of fair dealing. To describe what The Sun did as fair dealing was “to give honour to dishonour”.
The public interest defence was only available in limited circumstances. The Sun’s argument that the stills needed to be published in the public interest to expose the falsity of Mr Al Fayed’s statements had no basis in law or logic.