A French court yesterday condemned as "brutal" and "particularly intrusive" the topless images of the Duchess of Cambridge published by the French version of Closer magazine last week.
Three judges ordered the magazine to end all print and electronic publication of the images and to hand over digital copies within 24 hours or face fines of €10,000 (£8,000) per offence or per day. Closer was also ordered to pay €2,000 towards the royal couple's legal costs.
The ruling by the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Nanterre was a moral victory for the Duke and Duchess – known to the court as "Monsieur et Madame Mountbatten-Windsor" – but it will be of limited practical value. The offending edition of the magazine has already sold out. The French ruling does not prevent the unidentified photographer, or his agency, from peddling the images to magazines in other countries.
More significant, perhaps, was a decision by French state prosecution service yesterday to launch a preliminary investigation into a possible criminal prosecution of the magazine and the photographer for trampling the royal couple's right to privacy. Such a case, rare in France, could flush out the identity of the man, or woman, who took the long-lens photos of the near-naked Duchess at a château in Provence.
If convicted in a criminal case, the magazine's publishers would face a fine of up to €225,000 and civil damages.
The photographer would face a fine of up to €45,000 plus damages. In theory, a court could also impose jail sentences but this is extremely unlikely. In their separate civil lawsuit, the Duke and Duchess were yesterday granted all aspects of the multi-layered injunction that they had asked for in a 90-minute emergency hearing on Monday night.
In a written ruling, the judges said: "These pictures showed the intimacy of a couple partially naked on the terrace of a private home surrounded by a park several hundred metres from a public road.
"Since they were legitimately able to assume that they were protected from passers-by, they are by nature particularly intrusive."
The royal couple were, the judges said, "subjected to this brutal display the moment" that Closer appeared on the streets last Friday. The Duke and Duchess's lawyer, Aurélien Hammelle, did not ask for the magazine to be withdrawn or pulped since it was "manifestly sold out".
Although French privacy laws are theoretically tough, French celebrities tend to sue in civil courts and settle for damages of a few thousand euros.