The PCC has decided not to investigate The Sun's decision to publish naked photos of Prince Harry taken in a Las Vegas hotel suite because to do so could be a further "intrusion" for the third in line to the British throne.
The PCC received some 3,800 complaints from concerned members of the public but no formal complaint from the Prince himself over the pictures – which were widely published abroad and online. The Sun was the only UK national newspaper to print them.
After its regular meeting this week, the PCC said: "The commission would be best placed to understand these issues – including the circumstances in which the photographs were taken – with the formal involvement of Prince Harry's representatives. In addition, an investigation by the commission, without consent, would have the potential itself to pose an intrusion.
"The commission is grateful to the many members of the public who have contacted it to express concerns about The Sun's coverage but has concluded that it would be inappropriate for it to open an investigation at this time for the reasons above."
It said: "On 22 August the commission issued an advisory notice drawing to editors' attention the concerns of Prince Harry's representatives, on privacy grounds, about the potential publication of the photographs in the UK press. The advisory notice system provides a means to help individuals who find themselves at the centre of a news story to communicate their concerns that the Editors' Code of Practice is being breached or may be breached in forthcoming coverage. These notices do not prohibit publication; they help editors to make well-informed decisions about how to cover the news in a way that meets their obligations under the Code. In this instance, as always, the decision whether or not to publish remained with the editor of each publication.
"In addition, as the story was unfolding the commission provided advice, on request, to editors about the relevant issues under the code. This noted the terms of Clause 3 of the code and, in particular, Clause 3 (iii), which states that it is 'unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent' and which defines private places as 'public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy'. The commission recognises exceptions to the terms of Clause 3 where publication can be shown to be in the public interest. The code also requires that the commission 'consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so'. Publications were reminded that they would be required to justify any decision to publish should the commission later undertake a formal investigation."
The PCC said it plans to publish new guidance for editors on this area.