Monday, November 22, 2021
A debate is taking place in the U.K. following an announcement from the Guardian newspaper in which it stated that it (the Guardian) was "taking legal action over the media's exclusion from a hearing on Prince Philip's will earlier this year."
Andrew McFarlane, president of the High Court's Family Division, ruled in September that Philip's will would be sealed for 90 years. Although representatives of the duke's estate were present, the media was not told about the hearing and were not allowed to attend. Instead, the public interest was represented by the attorney general.
According to a Guardian News & Media spokesperson, the High Court's decision to ban the media from the court hearing without informing outlets or allowing them to make representations "is a clear threat to the principles of open justice."
The spokesperson further stated:
It is also concerning that the court appears to believe that only the attorney general can speak to the public interest," the spokesperson continued. "We are seeking permission to argue that the behaviour of the high court in this instance constitutes a failure of open justice and that the case should be reheard.
Under British Law, "if a person prepares a will prior to their death, it becomes a public document after being admitted to probate, and anyone can obtain a copy from the Probate Registry for a fee."
However, a person can request that the court seal a will and keep it private if that person can prove to the court that it would be undesirable or otherwise inappropriate to make the will public.
According to Judge McFarlane, it is traditional practice to submit an application to seal a will of a senior member of the Royal Family and that those applications have "always been heard in private and invariably have been granted."
See Max Foster & Lauren Said-Moorhouse, A court battle is brewing over Prince Philip's will, CNN, November 29, 2021.