Princess pictures renew privacy row

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PRIVACY legislation to end the media's self-policing regime seemed inevitable yesterday after photographs of the Princess of Wales training in a gymnasium appeared in a Sunday newspaper.

The photographs, taken by a hidden camera at a west London fitness centre, show the Princess in leotard and tight-fitting cycling shorts using equipment in a 'pumping iron' workout. Without evidence of any royal sweat, her hair coiffed to perfection, and her face showing none of the stresses and strains of normal weight-training exertions, the photographs looked curiously posed.

However, the complex operation which enabled the workout to be captured on film and splashed across seven pages of the Sunday Mirror caused an outcry and demands that the Government accelerate plans to outlaw such invasions of privacy.

The photographs were taken by Bryce Taylor, a New Zealander and the owner of the LA Fitness Club in Isleworth. He had hidden a Leica camera in the ceiling.

Max Clifford, the PR expert who acted for Antonia de Sancha in the publicity surrounding her relationship with David Mellor, the former minister, was appointed as Mr Taylor's spokesman yesterday. 'He (Mr Taylor) told me he did it simply for the money,' said Mr Clifford. With worldwide syndication, the pictures are likely to make about pounds 1m.

As the Sunday Mirror was preparing for publication, the Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, was appearing on BBC Radio's Any Questions. He said that although privacy legislation would not be in the Queen's Speech in a fortnight, the Government was 'far down the road' towards making invasion of privacy a civil wrong or even a criminal offence.

MPs yesterday called for government action. Dr John Blackburn, a member of the Commons committe looking at the need for such legislation, said the intrusion 'defies human decency'. Sir Nicholas Fairbairn said the episode might lead to the UK's press being 'Pravda-ised'.

The photographs, strongly condemned by Buckingham Palace, could settle the argument that self- regulation is not working. More will appear in the Daily Mirror today with further pictures scheduled for publication in next week's Sunday Mirror and People.

Lord McGregor of Durris, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, the press's self-appointed watchdog, called the photographs disgraceful.

He said the justification offered by the Sunday Mirror - that the pictures highlighted a lapse in royal security - was 'the most hypocritical I have ever heard from an editor'.