Ruling bans publication of celebrities' family pictures

Children may have to be edited out of celebrity pictures

British newspapers have been effectively banned from publishing photographs of celebrities with their children by the European Court of Human rights.

The full ruling, which is in French, has been described as “pretty horrific” by a leading international media lawyer.

And it has been interpreted as going much further than both the Editors’ Code of Practice and existing British legal precedent.

The ruling was issued this week in favour of Princess Caroline of Monaco who complained about pictures published in German magazines of her with her family on holiday.

Germany’s top court ruled in 1999 that the magazines were allowed to publish pictures of her in public places, even when on private business, because she was a public figure.

The princess complained under Article Eight of the Human Rights Convention that the pictures were a breach of her right of respect for her family life.

The court ruled unanimously that “the public does not have a legitimate interest in knowing where [Princess Caroline] is and how she behaves generally in her private life”.

International media law specialist Mark Stephens said: “You’ve got a group of judges from countries that are naturally conservative on privacy issues: Germany, Switzerland and Portugal. They’ve come up with a decision which is very much along the lines of what you would expect in their own countries rather than this one.

“It puts the kibosh on any chance of The Mirror going to the European Court with the Naomi Campbell case and it is going to have an enormous effect on the picture desks of any national newspaper.

“Any time a celebrity is out with its child it can now use the child as a shield. That’s what the decision says.

“Picture editors will now have to crop the child out of celebrity photos or pixelate the child out.

“What the European Court has done has created a law more restrictive than the Code of Practice.”

Stephens, having read the full judgement in French rather than just the translated summary, added: “It’s pretty horrific”.

He added: “All we can hope is that Carter-Ruck can’t read French.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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