French tabloid ordered to halt 'brutal display' of topless photos
Published Tuesday, September 18, 2012 6:31AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 18, 2012 11:48AM EDT
A French court has ruled in favour of the Royal Family, ordering a tabloid to hand over its published photos of the sunbathing Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and stop further publication of the "brutal display" online or in print.
A French court issued the ruling Tuesday, levying a $2,600 Cdn fine and ordering Closer magazine to relinquish the photos within 24 hours. The magazine's publisher Mondadori Magazines France has also been ordered to stop publication of the images on its websites, tablet application and further print runs of the edition.
Failure to comply with the order will result in a daily fine of $13,100 Cdn.
The magazine caught the world's attention on Friday, when it published 14 images that included snaps of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless while holidaying at a private residence in the south of France.
"These snapshots which showed the intimacy of a couple, partially naked on the terrace of a private home, surrounded by a park several hundred metres from a public road, and being able to legitimately assume that they are protected from passers-by, are by nature particularly intrusive," according to the court ruling.
"(They) were thus subjected to this brutal display the moment the cover appeared."
In a statement released following the decision, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they "welcome the judge's ruling."
When the case was argued Monday, the Royal couple's lawyer told the court that publication of the intimate pictures amounted to a "grotesque" invasion of their privacy.
"It's not an accessible (view) from the exterior," Aurelien Hamelle said of the villa in Provence where the couple was photographed sharing time in the sun.
Closer's lawyer, Delphine Pando, countered that the couple had been relaxing in a location visible from a public road. Pando also told the court that the rights to the photos belonged to an unnamed agency.
She did not tell the court who had taken the photos, or how much Closer paid to publish them.
The ruling handed down by the court in Nanterre, outside Paris, only applies to the 14 photos published in Closer on Friday, not the Italian tabloid Chi that published more of the photos on Monday, nor the Irish Daily Star that put some of the photos in its pages over the weekend.
Both Chi and Closer are owned by Mondadori, an Italian publishing house owned by former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Over the weekend, Chi's editor Alfonso Signorini said he didn't fear prosecution for including the photos in his publication because they were already in the public domain.
A statement from the Royal Family on Sunday indicated their lawyers were also pursuing a criminal complaint against whoever took the photos, but the decision would ultimately rest with authorities in France.
On Monday, French news agency Sipa reported that the prosecutor's office in Nanterre had launched a preliminary investigation for breach of privacy, receiving and complicity.
No individuals have been named. If a criminal case goes ahead, the photographer could face a substantial fine and up to a year in prison.
The swift response to the photos of the Duke and Duchess contrasts with royal reaction to photos of a naked Prince Harry partying in Las Vegas. Those photos first surfaced online in August and were later published in Britain's Sun tabloid.
The palace largely shrugged off the Vegas photos, which included images of the prince apparently playing strip billiards. No action was taken against the media organizations that published those photos.
British tabloids have refrained from publishing the topless photos of the Duchess.