Photos of Kate Middleton's family taken in 2006 have been removed from British newspaper websites after complaints over breach of privacy. The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Daily Mirror all agreed to remove images of Kate and other members of her family taken on or around a yacht off the coast of Ibiza, after they complained to the Press Complaints Commission.
The family took action after photographs were published of Kate and her younger sister Pippa. The bikini-clad sisters were pictured relaxing on holiday with their mother, Carole, and brother, James.
The family’s solicitors said that they were taken in a place where they had "a reasonable expectation of privacy". The family believe that the yacht they were on had been followed by photographers.
The pictures were also shown earlier this year by the now defunct News of The World. Action over that remains unclear at present. They have also been shown in other publications in previous years.
Media privacy is a grey area, as the law in the UK is rather vague and is being strengthened by court cases citing human rights of individuals to privacy, rather than by parliamentary action.
My understanding is that anyone here can take a picture in a public place - this freedom allowed Google Street View to trawl though and film every public street in the UK. Beaches are usually public, although restrictions vary from country to country. The high seas are normally considered a free area for filming and photography.
The pictures of the Middletons, taken it seems in a bay, might arguably have fitted the last category.
The royal family have tried to prevent photographs being taken of them on their estates, even if taken from public footpaths. The trouble is that long lenses can pick up distant figures eg. royals wringing the necks of fallen pheasants on shoots!
In January 2010, when Kate was just Prince William’s girlfriend, the Queen’s lawyers issued a lawsuit over pictures taken of Kate playing tennis during the Christmas week at Restormel Manor in Cornwall, which had been rented by her family from Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall.
The pictures were not shown in the UK, although they were in Europe. It was taken as a sign that the Royal Family, especially William, wanted to protect Kate from intrusive behaviour.
While I have sympathy for the Middletons in trying to preserve some semblance of privacy, I am unsure about their latest action.
Absolutely, Kate and her family must not feel harassed or threatened in any way, but what would happen if an ordinary member of the public quite legitimately took a picture of Kate out shopping, sold it to publications, then ended up with a lawsuit? That might have the effect of making her unpopular.
The point is that William and Kate really must remain popular and seem accessible and connected with the public. The future of the monarchy may well depend on that.