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July 2, 2012updated 20 Sep 2012 9:08pm

Pap agencies face Post-Leveson crackdown

By Dominic Ponsford

Rogue picture agencies could face a post-Leveson crackdown in the wake of revelations that paparazzi outfit Big Pictures paid off an insider at Virgin Atlantic to reveal the flight details of high-profile figures.

Industry insiders said they were unsurprised by the actions of Big, which has been one of the leading celebrity picture agencies in the world.

A series of leaked emails were sent to Press Gazette and The Guardian in April which suggested a Virgin insider was routinely tipping off Big Pictures about the movements of high profile figures. Press Gazette was first to reveal that more than 60 celebs were involved.

Virgin Atlantic's reaction at the time was to raise questions about the authenticity of the emails and threaten legal action. But this week it admitted to Leveson they were accurate.

The reformed PCC is expected to suggest publishers take more responsibility pap agency pics they publish.

 

Big Pictures continued to maintain a wall of silence over the affair this week and declined to provide further details to Leveson.

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One former pap said: 'Big Pictures are more aggressive or more ruthless than any other agency out there.

'I'm not surprised about what has come out at Leveson. There are lots of individuals out there leaking information about celebrities' movements without their knowledge."

The source said that they knew of one national press photographer operating ten years ago who had access to the Heathrow computer booking system.

Max Cisotti, of pap agency Xclusive Pix, said: 'I don't think people are surprised by the actions of Big Pictures, but it's not something I would condone."

Cisotti said he would welcome clear guidelines on privacy post-Leveson: 'Most newspapers aren't using that much pap material any more since the demise of the News of the World and the Leveson Inquiry."

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