Duchess sues for damages over photos

THE DUCHESS of York and her 'financial adviser' John Bryan are claiming more than pounds 2m damages in the French courts following the publication of photographs showing the Duchess sunbathing topless at a villa in St Tropez, lawyers confirmed yesterday, writes Dean Nelson.

Paris Match magazine, the photographer Daniel Angeli, and the magazine's distributors NMPP are all accused of breaching French privacy law. Lawyers for the Duchess and Mr Bryan are claiming pounds 1.4m from Mr Angeli, pounds 600,000 from Paris Match and pounds 200,000 from NMPP.

The pounds 600,000 claim against the magazine is based on 5 francs (54p) damages for each of the 1.2 million copies distributed on 27 August.

A spokesman for Paris Match said he was surprised by the size of the claim and that the company would contest the action in court.

Mr Bryan tried to prevent publication of the photographs in France last month, but the judge ruled in favour of the magazine because the photographs had been published world-wide. But he did warn the magazine that it would run the risk of an action under the country's privacy laws.

Under French law, 'everyone has the right to respect for his private life', which means it is an offence to 'listen to, record or transmit, words spoken by a person in a private place without the consent of that person', or to publish 'a picture of a person in a private place without their consent.'

The scale of damages does not, however, mirror those for libel in Britain. When the actress Brigitte Bardot complained about being photographed in her underwear, she was awarded 1 franc (11p) because she had posed for similar photographs in the past.