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French Court Prevents Further Publication of Topless Kate Middleton Photos

Prince William & Kate Middleton - P 2011
Getty Images

It also opens a criminal probe against the French version of "Closer" magazine, owned by Silvio Berlusconi's holding firm, and the photographer.

LONDON - A French court on Tuesday granted an injunction that will prevent further publication of topless photos of Kate Middleton taken during a vacation. The decision covers the photos published by the French version of Closer magazine on Friday.

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The court also ruled that the magazine must hand over the photos within 24 hours and decided to open a criminal investigation into charges that the photographer and Closer breached the privacy of Prince William and his wife Middleton by publishing the pictures.

A court near Paris said it would probe if there are grounds for criminal charges against Closer, which is owned by Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi's holding company Fininvest, and the photographer, Reuters reported.

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On Friday, the royals said they had launched legal action over Closer's Friday publication of a five-page photo spread that included the topless pictures. In addition to the criminal complaint, the couple is also pursuing a civil lawsuit against Closer.

In the civil case, the royal couple sought a ban on further publication of the images in print and online, as well as €5,000 ($6,500) in damages and further compensation if the pictures are sold. The court ruled that Closer would be fined €10,000 ($13,000) a day if it republishes the pictures or transmits them to a third party. It also ruled the magazine must cover €2,000 in legal costs ($2,600).

In the criminal case, punishments under French law could include a year-long prison sentence for the photographer and even Closer’s editor, a fine, a prominent apology and a ruling that would stop the further distribution of the images, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times on Tuesday reported that the editor of Irish tabloid Irish Daily Star, which published topless photos of Middleton over the weekend, has been suspended in the wake of the debate over the use of the pictures. And British broadcaster ITV reported that Ireland is looking at introducing new privacy laws amid the debate.

Italian gossip magazine Chi, also owned by Berlusconi's Fininvest, also published Middleton pictures on Monday.

The topless pictures are the second photo scare for the royals within a few weeks. TMZ recently published grainy cell phone pictures of a naked Prince Harry online, and Rupert Murdoch's The Sun followed suit here a couple of days later. In that case though, the royals didn't launch any legal action.

British media organizations have been united in their criticism of the photos used by the French version of Closer. The magazine's British version, owned by a different company, and others have all declined to publish them.

British newspapers, fighting for their reputation after a string of scandals, have agreed not to publish the images, as has the British edition of Closer which is managed separately, and instead are condemning the photographer.

The Sun on its front page Tuesday even encouraged French authorities to hunt down the photographer. Titled the tabloid: "Find Le Rat."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai