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French court rule today on royal nude photos

Tuesday, September 18, 2012    

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NANTERRE, France (AP) — A French court will rule today on a request by a lawyer for Prince William and his wife Kate to block further publication of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge taken while the couple shared what he described as a deeply intimate moment on holiday.

The court in Nanterre, outside Paris, has said it will announce its ruling at noon as to whether it will to stop popular French gossip magazine Closer from reproducing the images.

The royal couple's lawyer, Aurelien Hamelle, said yesterday that they were sharing a "healthy and profoundly intimate" moment when a photographer took the images. The situation was "deeply personal," he added.

Closer published 14 of the photos of a partially clad Kate in its pages on Friday. Yesterday, Italian magazine Chi published a 26-page spread of the images. Chi, like Closer, is part of the Italian publishing house Mondador, owned by former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Irish tabloid the Irish Daily Star published more topless photos of Kate over the weekend. The editor has since been suspended, and Ireland's justice minister said yesterday that he would revise privacy laws in the country.

Hamelle told the court that he is seeking 5,000 Euros (US$6,550) in damages from Closer and an injunction forcing the magazine to stop publication elsewhere, including on the Internet. He also asked the court to fine Closer 10,000 Euros (US$13,100) a day for each day the injunction is not respected, and 100,000 Euros (US$131,000) if the photos are sold in France or abroad.

The photos in question show the Duchess of Cambridge relaxing during a holiday at a private villa in Provence, in southern France, sometimes without her bathing suit top and, in one case, her suit bottom partially pulled down to apply sunscreen.

William's St James's Palace called the publications of the photos a "grotesque" invasion of the couple's privacy.

The case centres in part on just how private the villa was and whether, in effect, Kate was to some extent flaunting herself.

"It's not an accessible (view) from the exterior," Hamelle said of the site — a point contested by Closer's lawyer, Delphine Pando who said the site is visible from a nearby road.

"What is certain for her (Kate's) close family as for herself is that it's something extremely troubling," Hamelle said.

Pando, the lawyer for Closer, asked the court to throw out the royal demand, arguing that the rights to the photos belong to an agency — which sold their use to Closer. She did not give the price.

"We are not the owners of these photos," she said. "The photos are out there. If a TV show wants to show an image of this (magazine) edition, it's got nothing to do with us."

That argument echoed the stance of the editor of Chi, the Italian magazine. Alfonso Signorini told The Associated Press over the weekend that he didn't fear legal action since the photos are already in the public domain following Closer's publication.

The case is but the first of two legal actions by the royals. In a reflection of just how intent they are on protecting their privacy — and likely dissuading paparazzi from future ventures, St James's Palace said Sunday the family lawyers would file a criminal complaint.

The Sipa news agency reported that the Nanterre prosecutor's office opened a preliminary investigation yesterday for breach of privacy, receiving and complicity. While no one was named, it would appear to cover the photographer or photographers involved in the case and possibly Closer. The palace said it would be up to French prosecutors to decide whether to investigate and pursue a criminal case for breach of privacy or trespassing.

That second judicial action was not mentioned in yesterday's proceedings, and there was no mention of the name of the photographer or photographers who took the offending pictures. There was only reference to an "agency".

Meanwhile, in Ireland, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said yesterday that the country planned to introduce new privacy laws after the Irish Daily Star newspaper published the topless photographs of the princess.

"It is clear that some sections of the print media are either unable or unwilling in their reportage to distinguish between prurient interest and the public interest," said Shatter.

"Sections of the print media believe that public figures are fair game and have no right to privacy in respect of any aspect of their lives," Shatter added.

Independent Star, the company which owns the Irish Daily Star, said yesterday that Michael O'Kane had been suspended as editor and an internal inquiry had been launched.

The newspaper printed some of the photographs on Saturday in editions available in Ireland, but not inside the UK.

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