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Invasion of Royal privacy by French Closer magazine

Posted on 17 September 2012 by Claire Gill


The French magazine, Closer (which is separate from Closer in the UK) published pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless in the gardens of a private house on holiday. There is no doubt that this is a gross invasion of her privacy, for which there can be no justification in the public interest, either under French or English law. The images, taken using long lens photography, clearly were private and the Royal couple plainly have a reasonable expectation that their privacy be respected whilst they are on holiday in a private location.

The publication of the pictures constitutes an infringement of Catherine’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into English Law by the Human Rights Act 1998, which says everyone has a right to respect for their privacy and family life.

France has long had stricter privacy laws. Privacy rights are protected in Article 9 of the French Civil Code and additional protection is reflected in the French Penal Code, which provides it is an offense to infringe another’s privacy by “taking, recording or transmitting the picture of a person who is within a private place without the consent of the person concerned”.

So, both Catherine and Prince William, whose image was also featured, have grounds for a civil claim in France. The violation is so offensive that damages awarded are likely to be in the top bracket allowed by French law. However, the upper end of the scale even for the most serious violation is still only around 25,000 Euros.

They can also lodge a criminal complaint which would mean the local prosecutor would investigate who took the photos. However, neither the level of fine or the amount of damages which could be awarded are enough to act as a deterrent to publishers, who calculate that the additional revenue generated by increased circulation will be well worth it.


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