The privacy case brought by the celebrities and OK! against Hello! for obtaining and publishing unauthorised pictures of the Douglases' wedding in 2000 starts today (3 February).
At an interim hearing on 27 January, Vice Chancellor Sir Andrew Morritt established that Hello! had lied when it said, as it has throughout the case, that it did not procure the pictures itself, but through independent media consultant the Marquesa de Varela.
In November 2000, just after the wedding, the judge found that a Charles Russell lawyer acting for Hello! had arranged for the Marquesa to sign a statement confirming that she had sold the photos to Hello!. The judge found her statement to be false.
“It does not appear that the solicitor… or anyone else on behalf of Hello! checked with the Marquesa before the statement was submitted to her, that it reflected evidence she was in a position to give. In these circumstances it is clear that the Marquesa knew the statement she had signed was false and no one concerned on behalf of Hello! had taken proper steps to ascertain whether it was true or false,” the judge said.
The judge explored the theme of Charles Russell's involvement during the hearing when, at one point, he asked the claimants' solicitors to obtain a copy of the Solicitors Conduct Rules for him.
The claimant solicitors did not seek to bring Charles Russell into the fray and the judge said “no criticism is made of Charles Russell”.