More than two-thirds of Britons believe The Sun was wrong to publish naked pictures of Prince Harry, according to a new poll.
Just 21 per cent felt publication was in the public interest, while 14 per cent of those surveyed had already seen the images – with almost half (48 per cent) saying they had no interest in seeing them on or offline.
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The Usurv poll, which surveyed 1,000 adults across the UK online, found that more women (71 per cent) thought publication infringed his privacy compared to just 58 per cent of men.
The results come after the Press Complaints Commission revealed it had received more than 150 complaints over the photographs in today’s Sun.
Guy Potter, director and market researcher at Usurv, said: ‘There’s been a lot of discussion in the media about The Sun’s decision to publish the Prince Harry pictures, but our research shows that nearly two thirds of the general public overwhelmingly believe it infringes his privacy.
‘Interestingly despite the fact that they have been freely available on the internet for days, nearly half of respondents simply weren’t interested in viewing them – backing up the saying, ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.’ The Leveson Inquiry has focused on the issue of press ethics and our survey shows that the general public seems to value people’s privacy over the chance to ogle salacious pictures of Prince Harry undressed.’
The tabloid became the first British newspaper to carry the pictures, arguing the move was in the public interest and a “crucial” test of Britain’s free press.
The PCC said all the complaints it had received came from members of the public and none had come from St James’s Palace or any other representatives of the royal.
The Palace said it had no further comment on the matter.
St James’s Palace said earlier 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.”
A PCC spokeswoman said the complaints would be investigated in due course.
Asked whether a complaint would have to be made on behalf of Harry himself before it could take action, she said: “It depends on what exactly has been complained about and which clause of the code the complaint is being raised under.
“There are instances where we can deal with complaints from what would be considered to be third parties.”
The pictures of the prince frolicking in the nude with an unnamed woman 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.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun said it was carrying the pictures in today’s edition so that the millions of people who got their news in print or had 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 newspaper got a member of staff to pose for a mock-up which it used its front page.
In the picture, Harry 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.
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.
“The Sun is a responsible paper and it works closely with the royal family. We take heed of their wishes,” he said.
“We’re also big fans of Prince Harry, he does a huge amount of work for this country and for the military and for the image of both of those institutions.
“We are not against him letting his hair down once in a while. For us this is about the freedom of the press.
“This is about our readers getting involved in discussion with the man who’s third in line to the throne, it’s as simple as that.”
He told BBC 5 Live that The Sun did generally “fear” the PCC, but a decision was made to publish the photos because of the public interest.
“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,” he said.
“This isn’t libel, this is something completely different. This is about privacy and therefore that argument doesn’t hold water.
“There is a public interest defence, and part of that public interest defence is that if this thing has got so much publicity elsewhere that it would be perverse not to do it, then that is acceptable, and there is PCC case law on that basis so we are very comfortable with the decision we’ve made here.”
Media lawyer Chris Hutchings, a partner at law firm Hamlins LLP, said:
“The Sun’s decision to break ranks and publish the pictures here, on grounds of public interest, is instead a financially-motivated move. It has calculated that the risk of legal action and financial penalties is outweighed by the increase in circulation which will be generated by publication.
“Prince Harry may, however, be advised not to sue the paper on the basis that this could cause further scrutiny and attention to be drawn to his actions.
“Nevertheless, the paper’s decision has been taken at a sensitive point for the UK media, with the forthcoming publication of the Leveson Inquiry’s Report”.