850 complain to PCC over The Sun's Prince Harry naked photos


Jennifer Cockerell
Friday 24 August 2012 17:20 BST
More than 850 complaints have been made to the press watchdog about naked photos of Prince Harry that were published in today's Sun
More than 850 complaints have been made to the press watchdog about naked photos of Prince Harry that were published in today's Sun (AFP)

More than 850 complaints have been made to the press watchdog about naked photographs of Prince Harry that were published in today's Sun.

The tabloid became the first British newspaper to carry the pictures, arguing the move was in the public interest and a "crucial" test of the country's free press.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) said all the complaints it has received came from members of the public and none had come from St James's Palace or any other representatives of the royal.

Nearly all of the complaints are about invasion of privacy and are to be investigated in due course.

The Palace said it had no further comment on the matter after previously saying that it was down to the editors of Britain's newspapers to decide whether they printed the controversial pictures.

A Palace spokesman added: "We have made our views on Prince Harry's privacy known. Newspapers regulate themselves, so the publication of the photographs is ultimately a decision for editors to make."

The Palace said Harry, 27, an Army officer and Apache helicopter pilot, remains on a period of leave and will return to his military duties shortly. He does not have any public engagements within the coming days.

The pictures of him frolicking in the nude with an unnamed woman while on holiday in Las Vegas made headlines around the world but until now no papers in the UK had used them following a request from St James's Palace, made via the PCC, to respect Harry's privacy.

But The Sun said it printed them in today's edition so the millions of people who get their news in print or have no internet access could "take a full part in that national conversation".

One of the two naked images of the royal is splashed across the front page of the newspaper, just a day after the publication got a member of staff to pose for its front page in a mock up.

In the picture, the royal can be seen wearing just a necklace and a wristband with his hands around his genitals as a seemingly topless woman stands close behind him.

The front page carries the headline: "Heir it is!" with an editorial explaining the reasons behind their decision to print it, describing it as "vital" that the paper ran the pictures.

The editorial said: "The Prince Harry pictures are a crucial test of Britain's free Press.

"It is absurd that in the internet age newspapers like The Sun could be stopped from publishing stories and pictures already seen by millions on the free-for-all that is the web."

The other photo, which shows the nude prince shielding himself behind an unknown woman who is also naked, with his bare bottom facing the camera, is also printed within the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid.

Sun managing editor David Dinsmore said the paper had "thought long and hard" about whether to use the pictures and said it was an issue of freedom of the press rather than because it was moralising about Harry's actions.

He told the BBC's Radio 5 Live that The Sun did generally "fear" the PCC, but a decision had been made to publish the photos because of the public interest.

He said: "These are pictures that are now in the public domain in every country of the world. Hundreds of millions of people have seen these pictures on the internet and it seems perverse that they shouldn't be shown on the pages of our newspapers."

A spokeswoman for News International declined to comment on whether Mr Murdoch had been consulted over whether to publish the photo in The Sun, saying it had been a decision for the paper's editor.

Until today, the public has been able to read about the prince's antics, but to see the images they had to use the US-based celebrity gossip website TMZ that broke the story, or scores of other internet pages across the globe.

Despite The Sun's stance on the issue, the majority of UK publications are still refraining from printing the images.

Its main rival the Daily Mirror said it took the decision not to publish the pictures as doing so would be "in clear breach" of the PCC's Editors' Code of Practice, regarding intrusion of privacy, while The Independent also said there was an issue of privacy relating to the images.

A poll by the Mirror found 63% of people believed UK newspapers should not be banned from printing the pictures.

A spokesman for Lord Justice Leveson, who is chairing the ongoing Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, said he had no comment to make on the matter.

TMZ said the photos were taken last Friday after the prince and his entourage met some women in a hotel bar and invited them up to the royal's suite.

The group played a stripping game and someone in the party is thought to have captured the images of the naked prince on a camera phone.

The Sun's decision to publish the images has provoked a storm of mixed reaction among those both in and outside the media industry.

Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott said the newspaper had shown "absolute utter contempt" for the law and the Leveson Inquiry.

"It is not about privacy. It is about money, money, money. And they know that by exclusively printing the pictures, assuming they are the only (British) paper which does, they will get everybody buying the paper to see this."

Meanwhile, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie welcomed the move.

"If Prince Harry with no clothes on in a Las Vegas hotel room surrounded by one naked woman and a load of other people he has just met in a drinking-stripping game is not a story then it is hard to know what is," he told BBC2's Newsnight.

Elisabeth Murdoch, Mr Murdoch's daughter, said there "was a public interest argument" for The Sun's decision to print naked photographs of Prince Harry.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, she said she felt "bad" for the prince, who was a "young guy having fun".

But London Mayor Boris Johnson said he had a "deafening indifference" to the publication of the naked photos.

He told the BBC: "The real scandal would be if you went all the way to Las Vegas and you didn't misbehave in some trivial way."


Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in