The Prince and the paps: leave Kate alone

Clarence House accused of opportunism as photographers threatened with legal action for pursuing the couple
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The Independent Online

Princess Diana's former private secretary last night stepped into a clash between Clarence House and the media over snatched photos of Prince William and girlfriend Kate Middleton leaving a nightclub.

Patrick Jephson, speaking on American TV, said there were "eerie similarities" with the pursuit of Diana but added that the timing of the complaint would raise suspicion. He said: "The footage I've been shown doesn't show anybody setting off in pursuit of William's car. There are those who are perhaps rather cynically thinking this is William's press spokesman trying to encourage a bit of a favourable publicity for tighter privacy laws."

Photographers yesterday defended their actions after a complaint from the Prince that the couple – back together after a six-month separation – had been chased after leaving Bouji's in Kensington. Alessandro Copetti, who emerged from the scramble on Thursday night with the clearest pictures, said he got his shots without chasing the couple: "It was all done in a civilised manner. It was a picture everybody was waiting for."

The Prince's aides made clear similar pursuits could lead to legal action. Sources close to the Prince suggest a distinction should be made between photographing the couple entering and leaving places and pursuits on cars and motorbikes.

With the inquest into the death of Princess Diana having just begun, the incident has led to comparisons to the paparazzi chase through Paris which led to the car crash that killed her and Dodi Fayed in 1997.

The Sun and The Evening Standard ran Mr Copetti's pictures, but the Daily Mail withdrew plans to print them after William's complaint.

The Prince's spokesman, Paddy Harverson, said: "It seems incomprehensible, particularly at this time, that this behaviour is still going on."