Women in revealing clothes have no redress, says lawyer

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Women who wear revealing clothes in public have no right to complain if men subsequently sneak photographs or video pictures of them, a female barrister told a court yesterday.

Echoing the sort of language once used by male lawyers in court, Jacqueline Samuel said: "If a member of the public, whether royal or not, is willing to go into a public place showing a low cleavage it ill behoves anyone to criticise the taking of a picture.

"It is no offence at all to take videos of people who wear low-neck dresses in public places."

Ms Samuel was appearing for the prosecution in the case of Gary Archer, 36, the former head of security at Harvey Nichols who came to national attention in January when security cameras at the store were used to record a visit of the Princess of Wales, complete with lingering shots of her legs and cleavage.

Mr Archer was facing two unrelated charges of theft.

During legal argument over whether his tabloid "video rat" reputation would hamper his chances of a fair hearing, Ms Samuel said the trial should go ahead, adding: "It is not as if he climbed over the wall of Kensington Palace and stuck a video camera through her bedroom window."

After the hearing at Southwark Crown Court, London, the barrister said she was making a legal point, not expressing a point of view. "The point was whether the defendant would have his reputation lowered in the view of a jury by taking a photograph of a woman in a low-cut dress," she said.

"If someone goes into a public place wearing a low-cut dress and someone takes a photograph or a video they cannot complain later."

Last night, her comments were criticised by fellow women solicitors and politicians.

Labour's spokeswoman on women's affairs, Janet Anderson, said: "This woman barrister may have been making a legal point, but I think she could have chosen her words more sensitively and carefully.

"To suggest Diana - or any woman - was inviting it because of the way she was dressed is quite disgraceful."

Alison Parkinson, chairwoman of the Association of Women Solicitors, said: "I can see the point she was trying to make - because it is not an offence to film anyone in public - but it was unfortunate she used these words to make it."

The case against Mr Archer, of Bridgwater, Somerset, was thrown out by the judge, Recorder Desmond Browne QC, because the time that had elapsed since the alleged thefts - of two walkie-talkies, two rugs and a footstool - in 1993 had prevented him from tracing a vital witness.

However, he agreed with Ms Samuel that the "video rat" stories were not in themselves prejudicial.