Pressure lifts on Middleton after legal broadside

Efforts by lawyers and the Press Complaints Commission to protect Prince William’s friend, Kate Middleton, from constant harassment by photographers appeared to be paying off today after a frenzy of activity yesterday.

Miss Middleton found herself facing massed ranks of photographers when she left her flat in Chelsea yesterday morning – her 25th birthday – with more than 20 photographers and five TV crews waiting for her to emerge.

But there were signs that the pressure might be lifting today, as the only journalists outside Miss Middleton’s flat were reported to be there to look for paparazzi photographers.

Another indication that the pressure might be easing was yesterday afternoon’s announcement by News International that its newspapers – The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World, and the give-away thelondonpaper – would no longer use paparazzi pictures of Miss Middleton.

News International, whose executive chairman Les Hinton is also chairman of the Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Practice Committee, said it would still use pictures of Miss Middleton taken by their own photographers or picture agencies abiding by the PCC code.

The announcement came after Royal aides disclosed that Prince William wanted “more than anything” for photographers to stop harassing his long-term girlfriend.

Clarence House said second-in-line to the throne William wanted to see an end to the persistent attention Miss Middleton faced.

A spokesman for the Prince said: “We are pleased that News International has agreed to stop using the paparazzi pictures.

“What Prince William wants more than anything is for the paparazzi to stop harassing her.”

Miss Middleton has become the focus of increasing attention following a spate of rumours recently that she and William will announce their engagement this year, possibly in the not-too-distant future.

Law firm Harbottle and Lewis, which acts for the Prince of Wales, has been working on Miss Middleton’s behalf, trying to use persuasion rather than legal action to help protect her.

The firm has been in regular touch with the PCC , and with editors of national newspapers.

But so far it is understood that the PCC has not received a formal complaint about harassment by photographers.

The Daily Mirror and the Daily Express were not imposing a ban, the Media Guardian website reported yesterday.

A spokesman for Trinity Mirror – which owns the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and the People – declined to comment on the matter.

But Media Guardian quoted a spokesman for Express Newspapers as saying: “The policy of all our newspapers is to exercise caution and restraint on pictures of Kate Middleton whether taken by the paparazzi photographers these newspapers have supposedly banned, our own photographers or anyone else.”

There were reports last week and at the weekend that Harbottle and Lewis was considering taking legal action against one or more paparazzi photographers, some of whom have been pursuing Miss Middleton across London as she travels between her flat in Chelsea and work in Kew.

The situation with the photographers has infuriated William – not least because of the intrusion faced by his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

The princess, who was the world’s most photographed woman, was being followed by paparazzi when she was killed in a car accident in Paris in 1997.

The photographers took pictures of her as she lay dying at the crash site – actions which shocked and distressed William and his younger brother Prince Harry.

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