Judges let former Spanish king appeal after he loses court battle with ex-lover

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The former king of Spain has been given permission to appeal after losing a High Court fight with an ex-lover.

Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, a Danish businesswoman, has taken legal action against Juan Carlos I and is seeking damages for personal injury.

She alleges he caused her “great mental pain” by spying on and harassing her.

Juan Carlos, 84, denies wrongdoing.

Juan Carlos I of Spain, left
Juan Carlos I of Spain, left, has denied any wrongdoing (PA)

Lawyers representing Juan Carlos argued he is “entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of the English courts in his capacity as a senior member of the Spanish royal family”.

But a High Court ruled against the former king, with Mr Justice Nicklin saying the claim can go ahead in England.

Juan Carlos’ lawyers on Monday asked two Court of Appeal judges to give him permission to mount an appeal against the ruling.

Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Peter Jackson granted permission and said a full appeal hearing should be held “soon”.

They said they would give their reasons later.

Mr Justice Nicklin had refused to grant Juan Carlos permission to challenge his ruling in the Court of Appeal.

Litigants normally have to establish an arguable or compelling case before being given permission to mount appeals.

Permission can be given by the judge who made the ruling or by appeal court judges.

Lawyers representing Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn had argued that the former king’s appeal bid should be dismissed.

The two appeal judges gave the former king permission to appeal on three grounds: an argument that Mr Justice Nicklin applied the “wrong legal test” on a “functional immunity claim”; a criticism of a direction Mr Justice Nicklin made telling Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn to amend her “particulars of claim”; and a suggestion that Mr Justice Nicklin had concluded that a “resolution of immunity” could be deferred and revisited at a later stage.

Appeal judges refused to give the former king permission to appeal on a fourth ground: a complaint about the legal test Mr Justice Nicklin had applied for “household immunity”.

Lawyers representing Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn had argued that this ground was “hopeless”.

Mr Justice Nicklin had heard how Juan Carlos ruled from 1975 until his abdication in June 2014 and the succession of his son King Felipe VI.

The judge had rejected the argument that, despite his abdication, Juan Carlos remained a “sovereign” and was entitled to personal immunity under the State Immunity Act 1978.

He had also said Juan Carlos was not a member of the current king’s household within the meaning of the Act.

Mr Justice Nicklin said the former king’s position under the Spanish constitution was “entirely honorary” and provided him “no continuing role”.

James Lewis QC, who represented Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, told the appeal hearing that the “household immunity” argument, which was rejected by the two judges, was “the only ground of appeal that has any chance of stopping (Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn’s) claim in its tracks”.

He added, in a written argument: “But it is hopeless.”

Mr Lewis said: “The defendant’s immunity claim was corrected rejected (by Mr Justice Nicklin).”

He said Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, who lived in England and had a home in Shropshire, wanted an “injunction and damages” resulting from “a continuous and ongoing campaign of harassment” against her, “commenced” by (the former king) from 2012, following the “break-up of an intimate romantic relationship” and her “refusal to let (the former king) use a financial sum irrevocably gifted to her, or to return other gifts”.

Mr Lewis added: “The conduct includes (the former king) or his agents smearing her and her business in the media, following her, entering her home in Shropshire, and bugging her homes and electronic devices.”

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