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 Prince William has the opportunity to make European law if he is as determined as he appears in pursuing his case over the topless pictures of his wife.

 Tough though French law is on matters of privacy, its courts are unlikely to award damages that will wipe out the increase revenues made the French edition of Closer by publishing the pictures.

 Over the border in Italy, Alfonso Signorini, editor of Chi magazine, also published by Mondadori, the property of former cruise singer and occasional Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, published even more pictures. Signorini argues that the pictures were taken from a distant spot on public property and therefore do not breach Italy's privacy laws.

 However, both countries are subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and are bound by the court's decision of 2004 in von Hannover v Germany.

 Caroline, Princess of Hanover, eldest daughter of Prince Rainier III of Monaco, had been trying for a decade to prevent pictures of her being published in German newspapers.

 In 1999 the German courts granted her an injunction to prevent publication of photographs of her children but the German Constitutional Court over-ruled this as Princess Caroline was a public figure.

 She took legal action in the ECHR against the German government for failing to protect her human rights. The court unanimously ruled that for privacy intrusions to be justified, they must contribute to a pressing matter of public debate. The curiosity of the public is inadequate justification.

 The court found the German courts did not give those exposed to unjustified press intrusion a "legitimate expectation" that their privacy rights would be upheld.

 This suggests it would be possible for Prince William and his wife to take legal action against the governments of France and Italy for failing to protect their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights. It could be diplomatically embarrassing for Britain if he did so but legally there appears to be no barrier.

Posted @ 12:41:18 on 17 September 2012  back to top
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It's not just Prince Harry who needs to take himself in hand. Let's face it: that comment makes less sense if you have not seen the Las Vegas pictures, or at least read a detailed account of them.

Indeed what would have happened if the Prince had not been "covering his crown jewels with his  hands", as The Sun so coyly put it. You can be sure such a picture would have appeared on the Internet, but would it have appeared in The Sun?

Given that the paper Photoshopped a huge cartoon crown over the Royal buttocks, it's unlikely. So doesn't that undermine The Sun's argument that "there is a clear public interest in publishing the Harry pictures, in  order for the debate around them to be fully informed"?

If the public need to see the pictures, why then edit them? Even the original publisher, TMZ.com, inexplicably put a star on the princely coccyx.

Other news pictures are not published, for reasons of taste and privacy. Indeed one of the criticisms of the Western media in the Middle East is that we do not show the full, horrific effect of violent attacks on civilians.

Harry's hotel-room escapade is a news story in the public interest, but the British courts were clear in both the Max Mosley and Jamie Theakston cases that photography can breach privacy even in public-interest stories. I personally think these decisions are wrong but they are there.

The Mail and the Mirror are right that it feels "farcical" and "ludicrous" that they cannot print the pictures, but that is not denying the public information.

The Sun, without naming the case, bases its argument on a Press Complaints Commission ruling in favour of a magazine which published pictures widely seen online: "The Commission felt that the images were so widely established  for it to be untenable for the Commission to rule that it was wrong for the  magazine to use them."

This must refer to the complaint of a woman against Loaded magazine two years ago. Four years earlier when she was only 15, she had uploaded photographs of her bare breasts to her Bebo site. The pictures had been taken from there and spread through the Internet.

Loaded published the pictures under the headline "Wanted! The Epic Boobs girl!", saying she had the "best breasts on the block" and offering readers a £500 reward for encouraging her to do a photo shoot, along with her name.

The  magazine argued that the photographs from were widely available on the Internet, with 1.9m search matches for her.

The Commission said: "The fact that she was 15 years old when the  images were originally taken - although she is an adult now - only added to the questionable tastefulness of the article. However, issues of taste and offence - and any question of the legality of the material - could not be ruled  upon by the Commission, which was  compelled to consider only the terms  of the Editors' Code...

"The test, therefore, was whether the publication intruded into the  complainant's privacy, and the Code required the Commission to have  regard to 'the extent to which material  is already in the public  domain."

So it did not uphold the young woman's complaint, and this appears to be the dubious case on which The Sun is relying.

Posted @ 10:49:18 on 24 August 2012  back to top