How the Prince Harry affair saw red-tops deal with a new regime

Where editors would once have cried 'publish and be damned', this time they bowed to warnings

On one side ranged St James's Palace, the Press Complaints Commission and the shadow of Lord Leveson, busy drawing up recommendations on the future regulation of newspapers.

On the other lay the most talked-about pictures in the world: juicy images of the party-loving third-in-line to the throne, stark naked, promising a summer windfall guaranteed to rack up web hits and boost tabloid sales.

But where editors would once have cried "publish and be damned" and argued their case in court, on this occasion – at least initially – they reluctantly bowed to legal warnings not to publish pictures of a naked Prince Harry.

This outward display of responsibility, designed to safeguard the industry's long-term future, came at a price. The tabloids condemned a "farcical" situation which allowed web users around the world to view images which were denied to British print readers.

The issue then became less one of privacy, but of a battle between print and web. After an initial reluctance, The Sun to broke ranks last night and announced that it would be the first British newspaper to publish the photographs.

The newspaper's managing editor, David Dinsmore, explained the decision to publish the pictures was because the issue has become one of "the freedom of the Press".

"This is about the ludicrous situation where a picture can be seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world on the internet, but can't be seen in the nation's favourite paper read by 8 million people every day," he said.

A St James's Palace spokesman said: "We have made our views on Prince Harry's privacy known. Newspapers regulate themselves, so the publication of the photographs is ultimately a decision for editors to make."

Prior to The Sun's publication of the pictures of Harry, clutching his groin area during a game of "strip billiards" and bear-hugging a girl from behind during a party in his Las Vegas hotel suite, they had spread virally on social media after appearing on the US TMZ gossip website – prompting agonised debate in tabloid newsrooms.

Harbottle & Lewis, Prince Charles' lawyers, issued a note via the Press Complaints Commission, warning editors that the pictures should not be published as they were taken on "an entirely private occasion" where Harry had a "reasonable expectation of privacy".

With Lord Leveson compiling recommendations on a new system of press regulation, executives were fearful of any controversy over privacy which might nudge the judge towards proposing a statutory regime. US networks ran versions of the pictures on news bulletins and they appeared on the websites of the LA Times and Time. Until today, no British papers ran the pictures. Insiders suggested that the cautious approach, likely to play well with legislators when they consider Leveson's report, would outweigh the short-term gain from publishing pictures over which exclusivity had disappeared.

The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror are understood to have still explored a "public interest" defence which could override the UK privacy stipulations. Those newspapers were losing millions of website views, a crucial source of advertising revenue, by failing to run the pictures.

Since Harry's round-the-clock protection team had allowed him to get into a compromising situation, which could have left the Prince open to blackmail, the Mail and the Mirror asked whether the security issues raised might justify publication.

In Thursday's edition, in place of the originals, The Sun "mocked-up" the images on its front page, asking a 21-year-old undertaking work experience, Sophie Henderson, to strip and pose with picture editor Harry Miller. A caption said the pair had been "happy to strip" but the image, after initially appearing on the paper's website, was removed. Henderson tweeted: "lol 5 mins of fame #cringin". The paper said that the intern had not been placed under any pressure to strip for the camera and the picture had been published online "in error".

British newpapers, denied their picture boon, vented their anger at St James's Palace. The Mail wrote: "Farcically, British websites, newspapers and television stations were prevented from reproducing them after Prince Charles instructed lawyers to threaten legal action for infringing Harry's privacy."

The Daily Mirror remarked that censoring "won't save Harry's blushes".

"It was an extraordinary decision not to publish," said Professor Tim Luckhurst of the University of Kent's Centre for Journalism. "Newspapers want to demonstrate impeccable behaviour on privacy. But there was a powerful public interest defence. These were not paparazzi pictures… Did Harry have a legitimate expectation of privacy given that he invited these girls to his suite and allowed pictures to be taken?"

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary