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Video by Bénédicte PAVIOT

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2012-09-15

French gossip magazine Closer has taken “an enormous risk” in publishing topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge while holidaying in Provence says FRANCE 24-RFI’s legal expert, where the right to lead a private life is strictly upheld.

The British Royal family are to sue French gossip magazine Closer for breach of privacy after it published topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge on holiday in Provence. 

St James's Palace confirmed the royal lawsuit on Friday after condemning publication of the photos and comparing them to the "worst excesses" of the Princess Diana era. 

Sept. 15: Irish newspaper publishes topless photos too

The Royals are overwhelmingly likely to win a civil action against the magazine, according to FRANCE 24-RFI’s in-house legal expert, who added however that it would be a pyrrhic victory.

“Closer will have factored in the cost of losing in the courts against the profits to be made from these pictures,” he said.

The pictures were taken in early September while she was holidaying with her husband Prince William at a chateau in Provence owned by Lord Linley, the Queen’s nephew.

St James’s Palace said earlier that the Royal family considered that the photographer had “invaded their privacy” in a “grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner”.

“The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales,” it said, which was “all the more upsetting to The Duke and Duchess.”

Shadow of Diana’s death

Since the death of Diana in a car accident in Paris in August 1997, the role of the paparazzi and the use of clandestinely-taken pictures of celebrities have come increasingly under the spotlight.

Closer UK distances itself from Closer France

Closer UK on Friday released a statement stressing that it was a separate publication from the French magazine of the same name which has been owned by Italian media group Mondadori since 2006.

Responding to complaints published on its Facebook page, the publication said that “Closer magazine UK was not offered any pictures of this nature and certainly has no intention of publishing the photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge which have been published in France this morning.”

Top-selling British tabloid The Sun last month risked the anger of the Royal family in publishing naked pictures of Prince Harry taken in a Las Vegas Hotel suite. It was the only British newspaper to do so.

And while the Royal family has little legal redress over the Las Vegas pictures, originally published by US website TMZ, they do have a strong case against Closer under French law.

It is not a criminal offence to photograph and publish a picture of someone in France simply because they are topless, if the photographer is not trespassing.

But even if the photographer was not on private property, the right to lead a private life is strictly upheld in article 9 of the French civil code - although it is up to the injured party to take the case to court for invasion of privacy.

“Closer has taken an enormous risk and would undoubtedly lose a civil case if the Royal Family decided to sue in France,” FRANCE-24’s legal expert said.

“They will probably argue that the pictures are in the public interest. There is always a balancing act in these cases between the fundamental right of the press to inform what is in the public interest and the right of people to lead a private life.

“But Kate Middleton was obviously on private property, doing nothing illegal or immoral. A French court is unlikely to rule that this was in the public interest.”

Britons react to the Middleton pictures in Closer magazine France

Date created : 2012-09-14

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