UK judge throws out harassment case against Spain's former king

AFP , Friday 6 Oct 2023

Spain's former king Juan Carlos I on Friday welcomed a UK judge's ruling that a harassment claim brought by an ex-lover cannot be heard in London, saying it "confirms his innocence".

Spain s King Juan Carlos waves to the crowd as he enters at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, 12 Novembe
Spain s King Juan Carlos waves to the crowd as he enters at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, 12 November 2003 in Buenos Aires. AFP

 

Danish businesswoman Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, who lives in England, sued Juan Carlos for damages of more than £126 million ($154 million) for personal injury.

Now in her late 50s, she alleges that the former monarch, who abdicated in 2014 and is now 85, caused her "great mental pain" by spying on and harassing her.

But judge Rowena Collins Rice rejected the civil case she had brought that against him.

"The High Court of England and Wales lacks jurisdiction to try this claim," she said in her written judgment.

"I was shown no authority coming anywhere near supporting an assumption of English jurisdiction over a foreign-domiciled defendant in such circumstances," Collins Rice added.

At the same time, zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn "has not sufficiently established that the 'harmful event' of which she complains -- harassment by the defendant -- happened in England", the judge ruled.

The former monarch welcomed the decision, which he said "unsurprisingly confirms his innocence" and paves the way for "further public appearances", according to a statement released by his Paris-based publicists.

'Harassment continues'

The judge recognised zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn "has an account she wishes to give of her personal and financial history with the defendant, and about the harm he has caused her peace of mind and personal wellbeing, and her business, social and family life".

However, she added: "The only question for me has been whether the claimant can compel the defendant to give his side of the story to the High Court.

"My conclusion, as things stand, is that she cannot."

Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn said she was "deeply disappointed" by the ruling.

It was "disheartening to see that victims of harassment often struggle to find justice in our legal system", she added.

"Intimidation and harassment of me and my children continues and is aimed at fully collapsing me.

"Juan Carlos has deployed his full armoury to grind me down and the reach of his power is immense.

"I am considering all options," she said.

- Dogged by scandals -

Juan Carlos, who is married, was in an "intimate romantic relationship" with the divorcee from 2004 to 2009, showering her with gifts, according to previous court submissions.

Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn alleged that Juan Carlos began harassing her after their relationship broke down, using threats, break-ins at her properties and surveillance.

Gunshots damaged security cameras at the front gate of her property, she claimed.

The couple's relationship became known in 2012, when the monarch broke a hip while on holiday in Botswana with Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. He had to be flown home, sparking public anger during a period of record unemployment in Spain.

Two years later, dogged by scandals and health problems, Juan Carlos abdicated at the age of 76 in favour of his son, Felipe VI, who has now publicly distanced himself from his father.

He went into self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates in 2020.

Already in December, three appeal judges in London ruled that his ex-lover could not sue him for harassment in the English courts for the period when he was still king as he had immunity as sovereign.

But they left open the possibility that she could pursue him for his alleged behaviour after his abdication.

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