DAILY MAIL COMMENT: A dark day for truth and free expression

The scales of justice are a finely balanced instrument. The slightest misrepresentation can tip them in an inequitable direction.

Thus, the right to rigorously test in court the evidence in any given case has, over the centuries, become one of the cornerstones of a civilised society.

Denying this key principle risks not only injustice. The ramifications can be chilling.

Yesterday, The Mail on Sunday – our sister title – lost a legal battle with Meghan Markle after it published extracts of a letter she sent to her estranged father.

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: This troubling decision in the Meghan Markle case sets a dangerous precedent

With the facts vociferously contested, and the Duchess of Sussex’s credibility as a witness called into question after she admitted misleading judges, fair minds might have thought the wrangle should have proceeded to trial.

There, the newspaper would have had an opportunity to defend itself – and the court could have carefully examined her veracity.

But not so. By summarily ruling in the duchess’s favour, the Appeal Court (which airily dismissed her falsehoods as a mere ‘unfortunate lapse of memory’) has placed privacy ahead of freedom of expression.

This troubling decision – rooted in Labour’s iniquitous Human Rights Act – sets a dangerous precedent. And make no mistake, the beneficiaries will not be ordinary people, but wealthy wrongdoers.

Sleazy politicians, celebrities who dislike media coverage and bridle at scrutiny, adulterous sports stars… their expensive lawyers will pore over this contentious judgment, sensing a more effective tool with which to muzzle an inquisitive Press.

Say a newspaper obtained a confidential – but personal – letter, written by someone rich and powerful, revealing a scandal of national interest. Wouldn’t that person now be emboldened to fund a legal case, citing ‘privacy’, to prevent being exposed?

For those determined to hide corruption, injustice and hypocrisy, yesterday was a very good day. For truth, the liberty to speak out and the public’s right to know, it was a very bad one indeed.

End the virus hysteria

Unsurprisingly, the hospitality industry is spitting tacks at the Government. Last year, the beleaguered sector enjoyed little Christmas cheer when its most lucrative period was ruined by lockdown.

But this year, with the spectacular vaccine success and Boris Johnson’s solemn vow that the road to normality was irreversible, those same businesses were anticipating a money-spinning festive season.

Today, that fragile optimism lies shattered like a cheap bauble, and with it ministers’ credibility. Hope has turned to anger. Spooked by the chaos engulfing the Government over the new Covid variant, organisations are cancelling office Christmas parties in their droves.

Five ministers in five days have offered five different pieces of advice on whether people should press ahead with their celebrations – from not ‘snogging’ strangers to taking lateral flow tests before socialising.

Such is their befuddlement, one might joke that they’d been hitting the Christmas sherry early. But for pubs, restaurants and other leisure venues – already trying to stay afloat – this is no laughing matter.

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Spooked by the chaos engulfing the Government over the new Covid variant, organisations are cancelling office Christmas parties in their droves (stock image)

Instead of preparing for the tills to start ringing, managers now face pages of crossed-out bookings.

And each scrapped event creates a ripple effect, buffeting other businesses, including taxis, food suppliers and hotels.

The uncertainty is catastrophic and puts countless firms at risk. Of course, Omicron is still an unknown quantity. But so far there have only been a handful of mild cases, and jabs seem to protect against it.

Ministers must start singing from the same hymn sheet, tell people to be sensible and enjoy their Christmas parties.

After all, the Government started this hysteria. It must end it.

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