The Prince of Wales’s lawyers, Harbottle and Lewis have launched a twin-pronged legal attack on journalists as they sought to protect the privacy of Prince William’s girlfriend Kate Middleton.
They used the threat of civil action — and possible injunctions — for breach of privacy under the Human Rights Act, and they threatened criminal action under anti-stalking harassment legislation.
News International chairman Les Hinton responded to the threat by banning all his titles — The Sun, News of the World, Times and Sunday Times — from using paparazzi pictures of Middleton.
But on Tuesday, Middleton found herself again besieged by paparazzi as she celebrated her 25th birthday. On Tuesday morning, Middleton found 20 photographers and five TV crews waiting for her to emerge from her Chelsea flat. But on Wednesday, pressure from her lawyers appeared to have paid off — according to the Press Association, the only journalists outside her flat were those looking for paparazzi photographers.
As well as contacting newspapers directly, Harbottle and Lewis has been applying pressure via the Press Complaints Commission — which has the power to call off journalists if complaints of harassment are made.
On Wednesday, The Sun and Daily Mirror both chose not to cover Middleton’s night out — while the rest of the press either stuck to using pics from well established agencies such as PA, or used photos taken of the pap pack themselves.
Press Gazette asked the photographers what they thought about the row.
Adam Gillham of Ferrari Press Agency said: “I know at least one agency which was watching her for a while, but have now given up because there are too many other people doing the same thing now. It just isn’t viable because it is then a case of scrambling to get your pictures in first, hoping some papers will use them.” Trevor Adams, a director of Matrix Photos, said his agency had decided not to pursue Middleton outside her house, but will still take photos of her when out on the town.
He said: “We’re not door-stepping her, we’re not following her to work, we’re not staying outside her office. We’re staying well clear of it.
“I think that inevitably something is going to blow up over this with the PCC, sooner rather than later probably. We have got a reputation among the newspapers of being quite reputable and we’d like to keep it.” Commenting on News International’s paparazzi pictures ban, Adams said: “With her there’s going to be a massive worldwide market, and that's not going to go away. So even if all the UK tabloids say they’re not going to print pictures, I don’t think it’s going to have much of an impact on the photographers camped outside her house.” Paul Stewart, former chair of the photography division at the Chartered Institute of Journalists, sees no problem with paparazzi taking photographs of Middleton if they stay on the right side of the law and the PCC code.
He said: “The vast majority of photographers who are doing that kind of work are not proper news photographers. In my opinion, there are far too many celebrity agencies putting out far too many untrained people onto the street with cameras