French court to rule Tuesday on UK royal photos


After hearing arguments Monday by lawyers for the British royal couple and for the Italian publishing house which owns the popular French gossip magazine Closer, the court said it would rule at noon on Tuesday. The royal request was made after Closer printed 14 pictures of the partially-clad Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, in its pages last week.

On Monday, the Italian gossip magazine Chi -- also owned by Mondadori, the publishing house owned by former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi -- published a 26-page spread of photos of Kate without her swimsuit top. An Irish tabloid published more Kate topless photos over the weekend, drawing a vow from Ireland's justice minister to revise privacy laws there.

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

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

The royal couple's lawyer, Aurelien Hamelle, told the French court Monday that he is seeking (euro) 5,000 ($6,550) in damages from Closer and an injunction forcing the magazine to stop publishing the issue with the photos. He also asked the court to fine Closer (euro) 10,000 ($13,100) a day for each day the injunction is not respected, and (euro) 100,000 ($131,000) if the photos are sold.

Mondadori lawyer Delphine Pando told the court that the photos are not theirs to sell.

"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.

In addition to the injunction demand, St. James's Palace said Sunday the family lawyers would file a criminal complaint against the unidentified photographer or photographers involved. 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 Monday'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 Monday 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, who announced that previously abandoned proposals for privacy legislation will be revived.

"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.

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