The 3am Boys are disowned as 'chancers' by paparazzi

As Clarence House insists Prince Harry will not apologise for clash, Steve Bloomfield reports on a new breed of photographers stalking celebrities
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First they were assaulted - allegedly - by a Prince. Then yesterday, the crowds of paparazzi got a further bashing when they were damned by Clarence House as "pushy".

First they were assaulted - allegedly - by a Prince. Then yesterday, the crowds of paparazzi got a further bashing when they were damned by Clarence House as "pushy".

A royal spokesman insisted yesterday Prince Harry would not apologise after appearing to lash out at a young photographer outside a London nightclub last week.

In an interview on BBC radio, Paddy Harveson, communications secretary to the Prince of Wales, said the incident was "unfortunate" and "regretful" but the Prince saw no reason to say sorry. The paparazzi, he said, had been unusually "pushy" and Harry had been swamped by the crowd.

Experienced photographers sided with the Prince, describing a new generation of paparazzi as "chancers" in pursuit of easy money, who are likely to cause violent confrontations with celebrities.

Mr Harveson admitted that the paparazzi would not stop trying to get pictures of the young Prince. "He is not unused to it, he knows they are going to be waiting for him when he is out and about. In this case they did seem to be much pushier. It was unfortunate, it was regretful, but let's move on."

The spokesman defended Harry and claimed the Prince's father, the Prince of Wales, had been "quite supportive and sympathetic. But," he added, "hopefully this sort of thing won't happen again."

Mr Harveson said Harry had been "completely submerged" by photographers when he came out of the club and reacted because he got "smacked in the face" with a camera by accident.

Asked what Charles's reaction had been to the incident, Mr Harveson said: "I think he has been supportive of his son, because I think he recognises the situation.

"He is perhaps one of the few people who understands what it's like to be in that situation, though perhaps when the Prince of Wales was younger the media were different and the paparazzi weren't behaving like they do now.

"It is a different world and pictures are worth a lot of money, particularly of Harry and his brother William."

Public relations experts warned yesterday that Harry, 20, could expect such incidents to increase unless he is given better protection and advice. The celebrity publicist Max Clifford said: "William and Harry need exactly the same treatment as the major Hollywood stars - but the people around them simply do not understand the media game.

"The future of the monarchy depends on the princes. They are accountable now and can't just do whatever they want. If they come out of a nightclub at 3am someone will take their picture. The more they are seen in the papers as pampered, spoiled brats, the more damaging it will be for the monarchy."

The scuffle involving the Prince and the photographer, Chris Uncle, occurred outside the Pangaea nightclub in London's West End at around 3am last Thursday. Mr Uncle, 24, who was left with a cut lip, claimed the Prince "deliberately lashed out", but has so far not made a formal complaint to the police.

The behaviour of the new, younger breed of paparazzi is causing concern among an older, perhaps less gung-ho generation.

Alan Davidson, a celebrity photographer since the 1970s, said: "They are not paparazzi - they are guys who two months ago hadn't held a camera. They have no idea and no manners. These days you go into an agency and they give you a camera and, hey presto, you're a photographer."

Adam Helliker, diarist and commentator, attacked the "fox and hound" chase that takes place whenever a celebrity appears. "The young guys are just chancers with digital cameras - some have even got camera phones. But they have come to the conclusion that it is a damn easy way to make money."

It is not the first time that Prince Harry has found himself in the tabloid press for the wrong reasons. Since leaving Eton College last year Harry has developed a reputation as a "playboy prince". He is often photographed with drink in hand, surrounded by attractive women.

His press minders have tried to paint a portrait of the young Prince as "his mother's son", with a high-profile visit to Lesotho earlier this year to meet children suffering from Aids. But they have struggled to keep a lid on Harry's nocturnal activities ever since the News of the World revealed in January 2002 that Harry had smoked cannabis.