A French magazine could be shut down and a photographer sent to jail over the publication last year of photographs of Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, sunbathing while on vacation in France. The magazine, called Closer, published topless images of Middleton that were allegedly shot by photographer Valerie Suau.
French authorities are investigating the publication of the photos, which may have been a violation of French law. If charged and convicted of violating the royal couple’s privacy, Suau faces up to one year in jail and a fine up to 45,000 euros (about $60,000). Closer could be shuttered for as long as five years.
Prosecutors are also investigating Suau’s employer, a French newspaper called La Provence, which published some of the sunbathing images, although none showed Middleton topless.
The royal couple had been sunbathing on private property when Suau allegedly photographed them. The publishers of Closer have said in their defense that the images were shot from a public road.
After the images appeared in France, authorities there ordered Closer not to publish any more of them. But the images appeared in other European publications.
The suppression of the images in France and ensuing investigations reflect that country’s strict privacy laws, which bar the publication of photographs of individuals without their permission–even if the photographs are shot in a public place.
The royal family has invoked the death of Prince William’s mother–Princess Diana–to stir outrage over the sunbathing photos. The photos, according to an official statement from the royal family, are “reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales.”
Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Several paparazzi and news photographers on motorcycles were chasing the car she was riding in when it crashed. Although the driver of the car was later found to have been drunk, and manslaughter charges against the photographers were dropped after an investigation, many people still blame them for the princess’s death.
Three of the photographers were eventually found guilty of violating France’s privacy laws because they photographed Princess Diana and her companion, Dodi Al Fayed, inside the car after the accident. Those photographers were ordered to pay a symbolic fine of one euro each.