Press grudgingly heeds Harry naked pics warning

UK newspapers today grudgingly heeded legal warnings from from lawyers acting for the Royal Family and resisted publishing the naked photos of Prince Harry which were circulating widely online yesterday.

But some titles were clearly unhappy about the situation. The Daily Mail described the picture ban as farcical and the Daily Mirror said: "Censoring them [the pictures] in Britain is ludicrous when everyon else is peering at an unclothed Prince. And it won't save Harry's blushes."

In a leader column the Mirror said that the emergence of the pictures – taken when Harry was playing strip pool in a private VIP suite with some friends – raised questions about his judgement and about Royal security.

Britain's best-selling tabloid, The Sun, today had a more light-hearted take on the photos and it persuaded features picture editor Harry Miller, 31, and intern Sophie Henderson, 21, to strip in order to create the photos for pages 1,4 and 5. This enabled to to run a front page which at first glance appeared to defy yesterday's legal threats.

Yesterday, Prrince Charles's lawyers Harbottle and Lewis went to the Press Complaints Commission to urge British newspapers not to use the pictures and also issued legal letters to individual papers.

A spokesman for the prince said that the pictures were taken on "an entirely private occasion" and argued that Harry had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in his own hotel suite.

The Press Complaints Commission Editors' Code states that it is 'unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent". Private places are defined as 'public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy".

The UK civil law is similarly clear.

Invasions of privacy can be justified if they can proven to be in the public interest. But clearly newspapers took the view that it would be difficult make that justification in this case.

According to the Daily Mail, a Royal spokesman yesterday said it would have been "prurient" for British newspapers to use the pictures.

One argument UK titles could have deployed is that once the pictures were widely viewed on the internet in the UK, they could no longer be considered private.

But at a time when self-regulatiion of the UK press is hanging in the balance, it may be that newspapers are reluctant to the rock the boat and defy advice issued by the Press Complaints Commission.

Later this year, Lord Justice Leveson is expected to issue recommendations which could either see self regulaton off the press via the PCC retained and bolstered, or abolished and replaced by a new independent regulator. Newspapers owners and editors in the UK are strongly opposed to the latter option.

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