Topless pictures of Kate must be handed over, French court rules
Injunction bans further publication of photos of Prince William's wife and criminal probe starts
Agence France-Presse in Paris
French authorities yesterday banned Closer magazine from any further publication or resale of topless pictures of Prince William's wife Catherine and launched a criminal investigation into how they were obtained.
An emergency injunction granted by a civil court at Nanterre in the Paris suburbs ordered the magazine to hand over all forms of the pictures to representatives of the British royal couple within 24 hours or face a €10,000 (HK$102,000) fine for every day's delay.
The injunction also bans the glossy magazine, which published the pictures on Friday, from reusing them in print or on its website and from reselling them. Each infraction will be subject to a €10,000 fine.
A spokeswoman for St James's Palace said the royal couple welcomed the ruling. Maud Sobel, a lawyer for the royal couple, described it as "a wonderful decision". "We've been vindicated," Sobel said.
The pictures are widely available on the internet and have been printed in Ireland's Daily Star and Italy's Chi magazine.
The granting of the injunction came hours after a prosecutor launched a preliminary investigation into whether the magazine and the photographer who took the pictures had committed a crime. In light of the granting of the injunction, the investigation is virtually certain to lead to a full investigation of allegations that taking and publishing the pictures breached the couple's right to privacy.
The injunction ruling said the pictures were "by their nature, particularly intrusive" and had been taken in a place where the couple could "legitimately assume they were not overlooked."
The prosecutor will have to decide whom any criminal proceedings are directed against. The royals' complaint cites persons unknown, but aides say they want proceedings against both the editor of Closer and the photographer (or photographers) who took the shots at a chateau in the south of France earlier this month.
In theory both could face fines of up to €45,000 and possibly even prison terms if convicted. In practice, no one has ever been imprisoned for breaching the privacy law and fines are usually well below the maximum.
The couple's lawyer Aurelien Hamelle told the injunction hearing that the images were of "a highly intimate moment" in the life of a young married couple.
The lawyer said the images were particularly distressing for the couple in light of the death of William's mother Princess Diana in a car that crashed in a Paris tunnel in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi.
The identity of the photographer remains unknown and French law protecting journalistic sources mean Closer is unlikely to be forced to name him.