Topless Kate photos draw injunction from French court

A French court has issued an injunction against a gossip magazine and its website halting further publication in France of topless photos of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William.

Ruling sought by royal couple applies only to France's Closer publisher

A French court issues an injunction over topless photos of Kate Middleton, but the images have already gone viral 5:12

A French court has issued an injunction against a gossip magazine and its website halting further publication in France of topless photos of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William.

The court in Nanterre ordered the publisher of Closer magazine to hand over its digital copies of topless photos of Kate within 24 hours and prohibited any further publication of what it called a "brutal display" of William and Kate's private moments.

The ruling by the judge affects only Montedori Magazines France, Closer's French publisher.

The decision comes a day after an Italian magazine hit newsstands with a 26-page montage of the images, which were first published in the French magazine Closer on Friday.

Italian gossip magazine Chi, owned by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, published a 26-page spread of topless photos of Kate Middleton on Monday. (Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press)

The Irish Daily Star also published the photos over the weekend, prompting the suspension of the tabloid's editor, Michael O'Kane, and a vow from Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter to review privacy laws.

William's St. James's Palace has called the photos a "grotesque" invasion of privacy and said a criminal complaint would be filed against the unidentified photographer or photographers who took the images. Lawyers for the Royal Family had sought the French injunction.

Criminal case could be launched

The palace said French prosecutors would decide whether to investigate a criminal case for breach of privacy or trespassing.

The topless pictures were taken while William and Kate were vacationing at a relative's home in the south of France last month, apparently with a long lens from hundreds of metres away.

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"These snapshots which showed the intimacy of a couple, partially naked on the terrace of a private home, surrounded by a park several hundred metres from a public road, and being able to legitimately assume that they are protected from passers-by, are by nature particularly intrusive," the French ruling said. "[The Royals] were thus subjected to this brutal display the moment the cover appeared."

The lawyer for the magazine's publisher did not appear at the courthouse on Tuesday.

A statement issued by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Tuesday said they "welcome the judge's ruling."

Maud Sobel, a lawyer for the royal couple, described it as "a wonderful decision."

"We've been vindicated," Sobel said.

Despite the injunction, publishers have a considerable incentive to carry scandalous images. Royal observer Ciara Hunt told CBC's News Network that "the revenue that they will generate from sales and the increase in circulation never really equates. The fine that we’ve seen today was €2,000 in court. They are never huge fines, so it is never a huge deterrent for publishing houses to back away from the pictures. Where this stops we do not know. It will continue." 

The court's decision only affects the 14 images of partially clad Kate in Friday's edition of Closer. If the magazine possesses more pictures, it could technically publish them.

The royal couple are currently on a tour of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for the Queen.

With files from The Associated Press