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French court upholds magazine fines over topless Kate photos

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A French court Wednesday dismissed an appeal by the editors of gossip magazine Closer, who were fined 45,000 euros (S$71,955) for publishing pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless in 2012.

[PARIS] A French court Wednesday dismissed an appeal by the editors of gossip magazine Closer, who were fined 45,000 euros (S$71,955) for publishing pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless in 2012.

The court in Versailles near Paris upheld the maximum fines imposed by a lower court last year, which found Closer guilty of invading the privacy of Prince William's wife Kate.

It also confirmed that the celebrity magazine had to pay 100,000 euros in damages to the royal couple.

Closer published the grainy snaps of Kate wearing only bikini bottoms while on holiday with the prince at a chateau in the Luberon region of southeastern France in September 2012.

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The pictures caused outrage among the British public and the royal family, which filed a criminal complaint and obtained a court injunction preventing further use of the images.

Even the British tabloids, usually voracious in their appetite for pictures of the royal family, declined to publish the images when they were first circulated.

In a letter read out in court in May last year, Prince William said the case had brought back "particularly painful" memories of the paparazzi hounding his mother, the late Princess Diana who was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being pursued by photographers.

Lawyers for Closer editor Laurence Pieau and publisher Ernesto Mauri argued that the pictures of the royals were in the public interest and conveyed a "positive image" of them.

But the court of appeal rejected that argument and ordered both Pieau and Mauri to pay 45,000 euros in fines.

The court also upheld the fines handed to the two photographers suspected of taking the shots.

They were ordered to pay 5,000 euros each, and warned they faced additional 5,000-euro fines if they reoffended.

Closer's lawyers had asked the court to either cancel or reduce the fines, arguing that they were excessive for a privacy case in France where fines and damages usually reach just a fraction of that seen in the United States or Britain.

But the prosecution had argued that the editors' fines were commensurate with their offence and the penalties imposed on the photographers should be stiffened rather than eased.

"There was an absolutely unacceptable breach, not only of the privacy and the private lives of these two individuals, but also of the dignity of a woman," French prosecutor Marc Brisset-Foucault told the court.

The royals, who have three children, had yet to react to the appeal court decision.

They had initially sought 1.5 million euros in damages, but said last year said they were "pleased" with the court's verdict.

AFP

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