Press watchdog IPSO has upheld a privacy complaint against Mail Online over a story about Princess Beatrice wearing a “very skimpy bikini”.
The piece was published on 27 June and was headlined: “Beatrice makes a splash on yet ANOTHER day off! Princess dives into the sea in a very skimpy bikini as she enjoys a sunshine break on a yacht in Monaco.”
It reported that the UK royal had been “spotted on board luxury yacht with long term boyfriend”. And it included a number of what IPSO said were “grainy photographs” of the Princess on board the yacht in a bikini and swimming in the sea near to the boat.
She said the pictures were taken surreptitiously with a long lens in circumstances in which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
She said that the article included comments about her appearance. And she was further concerned about readers’ comments published alongside the article which “made explicit or abusive reference to her appearance”.
Mail Online defended the article saying the only reference to her appearance was a description of her“hourglass curves”.
Mail Online said the article was not intrusive.
It said the photos were taken on the shore with a 600mm lens when the boat was 200m from the shore. It said the princess was visible to the naked eye at that distance.
It said it had removed the comments on receipt of the complaint. It also offered to remove the photographs but refused to publish an apology.
Upholding the complaint as a breach of privacy IPSO said: “The photographs did not show the complainant engaged in any official duties.
“The series of images showed her undressing, preparing to swim, jumping into the sea, swimming, showering, drying herself with a towel, socialising with friends, and applying sun tan lotion to her partner’s shoulders while dressed in a bikini. These were activities which formed part of her private life, and the effect of publication of a large number of images was to show in considerable detail the activities in which she was engaged.
“It was accepted, by the publication, that the boat had been anchored around 200m from the shoreline, and that it had been necessary to use a long lens in order to photograph the complainant.
“The fact that the photographs had been taken with professional equipment but yet were of low quality, and had been cropped prior to submission by the agency, indicated that they had been taken from a considerable distance.
“The committee was not therefore satisfied that the complainant had been identifiable to those on the shore, notwithstanding the fact that it was possible to see the yacht itself with the naked eye, and that there was another boat in the vicinity. The complainant had not been aware that the photographs were being taken.
“The taking and publishing of these photographs of the complainant, wearing a bikini, which the committee noted placed a gratuitous and invasive focus on parts of the complainant’s body which would not ordinarily be subject to public scrutiny, represented a serious intrusion into her privacy.
“As the code makes clear, photographing an individual in such circumstances is unacceptable unless it can be justified in the public interest. The publication had not argued that there was a public interest in the publication of the photographs.
“Rather, it argued that there had been no intrusion, as the complainant had been photographed wearing a bikini in the past and had not complained. The complainant was entitled to be concerned about details of her private life being exposed to scrutiny without her knowledge or consent, and the fact that photographs had previously been published showing her engaged in similar activities did not alter her right to privacy in these specific circumstances.”
It said that user-generated content falls outside the IPSO remit.
Mail Online was order to publish the adjudication with a link to it visible on the home page for 24 hours.
The IPSO ruling comes a week after Prince Harry urged the media to stop coverage about his relationship with the actress Meghan Markle which he felt was intrusive.