Not content with the civil damages suit they have already lodged against the French magazine Closer that published photos of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless while holidaying in France, Prince William and his wife have decided to slap a criminal charge against the magazine in an attempt to stop its distribution. In a communiqué published late on Sunday, the Royal Household made it clear that an additional criminal suit would be filed on Monday.
Lawyers for the Royal couple are to appear before a court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre late on Monday. They will try to obtain a summary court injunction against the circulation of the photos. The reason given to the court is “infringement of privacy”. France is governed by strict privacy laws and the magazine risks paying up to €100,000 as damages.
“This is a gigantic coup for Closer magazine. We still do not know who the photographer is or how much he has made on this. It should certainly be a killing. There are more than 200 clicks in all. Closer could pay over €100,000 in damages. In France, a person’s image belongs to him and cannot be reproduced without consent. If a “stolen” picture shows a fully clad person on a balcony, for instance, the fine can be up to €10,000. Nudity of course is considered far more reprehensible. For Closer though, €100,000 is no big deal since this is the biggest celebrity coup of the year so far,” lawyer and writer Emanuel Pierrat told The Hindu.
But even before Kate and William’s lawyers are able to move the court on Monday, the photos will have appeared under the banner “The Queen is Naked” in the Italain magazine Chi, a sister publication of Closer. Both magazines belong to Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire and are managed by Marina, his daughter by his first marriage.
A spokesperson for Prince William clarified that the couple will not seek damages on Monday, just an injunction against the further circulation, distribution or sale, including on the Closer website, of the photographs taken with a powerful telephoto lens while the royal couple was holidaying in Provence, southern France. But once the injunction has been obtained, there will be a second suit when damages will be claimed.
A spokeswoman for St. James’s Palace said on Sunday: “We will not be commenting on potential legal action concerning the alleged intended publication of the photos in Italy save to say that all proportionate responses will be kept under review. Any such publication would serve no purpose other than to cause further, entirely unjustifiable upset to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were enjoying time alone together in the privacy of a relative’s home”.
Marina Berlusconi defended her decision to publish the pictures in a lush 26-page spread citing freedom of expression. “Mondadori is a house which uses press freedom and the autonomy conferred by its shareholders in the best possible way. In this case too, Mondadori has striven to do its work well. The pictures will not damage the Duchess’ dignity, nor are they in any way morbid,” Ms. Berlusconi said is a letter published on Sunday. The editor of Chi, Alfonso Signorini, told the British newspaper The Telegraph that the pictures published on Monday are “normal topless shots, except Kate happens to be the future Queen. They are not scandalous, there are no unpublishable pictures. It is just a huge scoop”.
Lawyer Matthieu Davey said in a newspaper interview: “The Diana precedent will be an additional factor that the court will consider. Her story reminds the world that princes and princesses need special protection. Like for the Monaco Royal family, damages could easily top €50,000. Kate and William will also seek to obtain the publication of an apology in the pages of the magazine. The judge will ask whether Kate and William have, in the past tried to manipulate their image, used or exploited the media. As far as their private lives are concerned, certainly not. One cannot accuse them of wanting to be in the spotlight — they were born to it and its part of their regalian function.”