Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. Picture: REUTERS
Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. Picture: REUTERS

Paris — On Tuesday, a French court ruled that a French celebrity magazine must pay €100,000 in damages to Britain’s Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, over topless photos of the duchess published in 2012.

The court also ordered Closer magazine’s editor, Laurence Pieau, and publisher Ernesto Mauri to each pay €45,000 in fines, the maximum possible.

The couple had sought €1.5m in damages and interest, but said they were "pleased" with the verdicts after a "serious breach of privacy".

"They wished to make the point strongly that this kind of unjustified intrusion should not happen," a spokesperson said in a statement.

The grainy pictures of Middleton sunbathing without her bikini top were taken while she was on holiday in September 2012 in the south of France with her husband, the second in line to the British throne.

The royals — who announced on Monday that they were expecting a third child — were photographed relaxing by a pool at a chateau belonging to Viscount Linley, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth.

Closer, a glossy French gossip magazine, was the first to splash the pictures, taken with a long lens, on its cover, and they were later reproduced in several other European publications, including Chi in Italy and Ireland’s Daily Star.

The magazine’s lawyer, Paul-Albert Iweins, said he was "pleased" with the ruling on the damages to pay, but said the fine was "exaggerated for a simple private matter". The court also ordered Closer to hand over the files with the images to the royal couple.

Two Paris-based agency photographers, Cyril Moreau and Dominique Jacovides, were each given fines of €10,000, with €5,000 suspended.

After the pictures first emerged, the royal couple filed a criminal complaint for invasion of privacy and obtained an injunction preventing further use of the images.

In a letter read out in court in May, William said the case reminded him of the paparazzi’s hounding his mother, the late princess Diana, who was killed in a Paris car crash.

Last Thursday was the 20th anniversary of the tragedy.

The prosecution had called for "very heavy" fines for the editor of the Closer and Mondadori France, which is part of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire.

The royals, now both aged 35, had joined the case as civil plaintiffs.

During the trial, Closer’s lawyers argued that the pictures were in the public interest and conveyed a "positive image" of the royals.

The couple learnt of their impending publication while on an Asia-Pacific tour to mark the diamond jubilee of William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The court also ruled on a complaint against the Marseille-based La Provence newspaper, which printed a picture of the Duchess of Cambridge in a two-piece bathing costume at the same chateau a week before the Closer photos.

For that picture, the paper’s publisher and the photographer, Valerie Suau, were given suspended fines, while they were ordered to pay a total of €3,000 in damages to William and Kate.

Suau said during the trial that she did not consider her photo to be "shocking".

"For us it was an honour to have [the royals] in the region. They weren’t nude, life was good."

AFP

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