The United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal, which allowed King Juan Carlos to appeal part of the ruling denying his immunity from British justice, published the arguments supporting its decision on Tuesday. Justices Edward Underhill and Peter Jackson upheld First Instance Justice Matthew Nickllin’s refusal to admit that the King Emeritus remained under the protection of the Spanish royal family.
The first law firm to represent the former monarch, Clifford Chance, based much of its defense on the State Immunity Act 1978. This section 20 is intended for diplomatic representatives established in British territory and extends protection to “heads of state and sovereigns”. as well as “members of his family who are part of his household” (household is the English term used).
Juan Carlos’ lawyers argued that all the alleged harassment against his former love partner Corinna Larsen committed after the date of abdication (June 19, 2014) falls under the provisions of the law. His client continued to remain “sovereign” by retaining the title of King Emeritus and was part of the reduced nucleus of the royal family under the terms of Royal Decree 2917/1981.
Judge Nicklin dismissed that argument, understanding that the law extends protection only to dependent members of a nuclear family. And in any case, he stated that the king emeritus no longer exercised any public representative functions in the service of the crown. The Magistrates of the Court of Appeal upheld that decision: “We do not accept the possibility that the accused can prove that he is currently or during the period contemplated in the complaint a member of the household of King Felipe VI. was. (…) He neither lives with his son nor has he announced his intention to support him in his duties,” they affirm in the sentence.
The Court of Appeal allows Juan Carlos I’s new legal team, represented by the Carter-Ruck law firm, to appeal Judge Nicklin’s decision to also deny immunity in acts performed on behalf of the King Emeritus, then Director of the CNI, General Félix Sainz Roldán, or through agents of the institution, in the two years prior to the abdication, which are also included in the lawsuit filed by Larsen.
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The sentence states: “On at least one of the occasions cited in the complaint, the defendant and General Sanz Roldán acted in their public capacity – that is, the defendant used his power as head of state to allow the security services to exercise state security to harass the complainant (which would no doubt constitute an abuse of power, but does not imply that the accused did not act in his public capacity)—”.
Juan Carlos I’s legal team will be able to appeal this part of Judge Nicklin’s ruling, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory that won’t prevent the king emeritus’ trial on harassment and intimidation charges against Larsen before the British justice continues.