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Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos

Six reporters, photographers and media chiefs are to be tried in France for invasion of privacy over topless photos of Britain's Duchess of Cambridge published in 2012, judicial sources said Tuesday.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

Six reporters, photographers and media chiefs are to be tried in France for invasion of privacy over topless photos of Britain's Duchess of Cambridge published in 2012, judicial sources said Tuesday.

The snaps of Kate, the wife of Prince William, were taken with a long lens and showed her topless on a balcony of a private residence in the south of France during a holiday with her husband.

The photos, which first appeared in French celebrity magazine Closer in September 2012, sparking fury from the British royal family and reviving a debate on press intrusion into the private lives of celebrities.

Closer's chief editor, the head of the Mondadori press group which owns the magazine, two photographers of a Parisian agency and a photographer and a senior figure at regional daily La Provence will now have to answer in court over the publication of the intimate photos, under a July magistrate's order.

The pictures in question first appeared on the front page of the regional daily in southern France on September 7, 2012, before Closer gave them a wider audience a week later.

The directors of La Provence have denied that one of their photographers took the offending pictures.

The topless images were later published elsewhere in Europe, notably in Chi magazine, also owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Mondadori media group, as well as in Denmark, Ireland, Italy and Sweden.

The royal couple had lodged a complaint over the pictures.

The royal family's lawyers obtained a civil injunction and sought criminal charges in Paris in a bid to curb the spread of the pictures.

The pictures revived debate about invasions of privacy by the press and brought echoes of the hounding by paparazzi endured by William's mother, Princess Diana, who died in Paris in 1997 after the car she was in crashed while fleeing scooter-riding photographers.

The French trial for the Kate photos will be held some time next year.

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LAW

France’s Interior Minister defends ‘precious’ right of women to go topless

France's interior minister on Tuesday defended the right of women to sunbathe topless on beaches, after a police warning for a group who stripped off on the southern coast sparked a social media outcry.

France's Interior Minister defends 'precious' right of women to go topless
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. Photo: AFP

French gendarmes patrolling a beach in Mediterranean seaside town Sainte-Marie-la-Mer last week asked a group of topless sunbathers to cover up in response to a complaint from a family, the local gendarmerie said in a statement on Facebook.

It acknowledged their actions had been “clumsy” but said the officers aimed wanted only to calm the situation, insisting there had been no official order to ban topless sunbathing in the town.

The mairie of Sainte-Marie-la-Mer also issued a statement clarifying that there is nothing to prevent topless sunbathing on its beaches, adding that it was “very attached to the republican principles of liberty”.

READ ALSO What are the rules around going topless or nude in France?

 

But the case prompted an avalanche of criticsm on social media, with #seinsnus (topless) trending on Twitter in France.

“Is Sainte-Marie-la-Mer now Saudi Arabia?” wondered one user, while others slammed a creeping “prudishness” in France.

“It was wrong that the women were warned about their clothing,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wrote on Twitter.

“Freedom is something precious. And it is normal that officials can admit their mistakes.”

 

“You will always see me in uniform,” the spokeswoman of the French gendarmerie Maddy Scheurer wrote on Twitter, adding a smiling emoji.

“But topless sunbathing is allowed on the beach at Sainte-Marie-la-Mer. It was clumsiness by two gendarmes who had the best intentions.”

Topless sunbathing in France is legally not considered to be sexual exhibitionism although it can be halted by local directives outlawing certain styles of dress.

But far from everyone in France takes their tops off on the beach these days and topless sunbathing has become less popular in recent years.

Surveys show that younger women are increasingly concerned about sexual harassment and body shaming on the beach.

Less than 20 percent of French women aged under 50 now sunbathe topless, compared with 28 percent 10 years ago and 43 percent in 1984, according to a recent survey by pollster Ifop of over 5,000 Europeans including 1,000 French.

This makes the French less willing to bathe topless than some other Europeans, with almost half of Spanish women saying they bathe topless and 34 percent of Germans.

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