Leaders: Better there be no royal rush to sue over pictures
IT WAS bound to happen sooner or later: pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge are taken without her knowledge or approval, while on a private holiday, in the private grounds of a chateau in Provence.
The first of the photographs appear in a French magazine. Other pictures appear. The frustration and anger of the duchess and her husband are surely understandable.
What adds the darkest tinge to this incident is the eerie memory of how Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, met her death in a Paris tunnel seeking to escape the very paparazzi who now appear intent on inflicting the same misery on the newest member of the British royal family. Is there to be no privacy?
Public concern on this issue is heightened by the current Leveson Inquiry and revulsion over revelations of alleged phone hacking. Who could possibly blame the couple, seeing the tragedy of Princess Diana stretching before them, for not reaching out and seeking protection of the law? But it is at this point of maximum anger that the couple must pause and reflect on an action that may have exactly the opposite effect to that intended.
There is the evident difficulty in enforcing UK values and law on foreign soil and on foreign nationals. Even assuming a prosecution is ever brought, how might it be enforced?
The French, Irish and Italian publications minded to publish such photographs have little regard for the privacy of some other country’s royals, never mind the niceties of Leveson. For them, the duchess is just another celebrity on whose exposed body the public are assumed to have an insatiable and licentious lust to gorge.
It is a hard truth to face, but in many instances a resort to the law to protect privacy can have directly the opposite effect. There was the case in recent years of a minor soap opera celebrity who, accused of a sexual act in a car, sued. The effect was to magnify the original incident – and embarrassment – a thousand-fold. In this and in other such cases, who can recall the judgment of the court? Or any damages awarded the plaintiff?
What the public remembers is the huge publicity that resort to the courts occasioned, and the loss of dignity. Far from an appeal to the law drawing a line under some breach of privacy, it results in a total destruction of privacy.
Another consideration here is that in launching a legal action on privacy so early in their royal careers as Kate and William, they need not just to win but to win convincingly, leaving not a scintilla of doubt that such breaches will be severely punished in future. But a qualified verdict, or some settlement out of court, would have the effect of declaring open season on whatever small remnant of privacy is left to them.
Sadly, the law can only work here as a deterrent on the assumption that we live in an age of chivalry. To the extent it ever existed, it is long gone. Discretion here would be the better part of valour.
Put winners’ welcomes to good use
Tens of thousands flocked to deliver their cheers and thanks to Scottish athletes after their stunning performance in the Olympic Games.
And for tennis ace Andy Murray, there was an especially warm “welcome home” as the US Open champion and Olympic gold medallist returned to Dunblane. Fans chanted his name and cheered after waiting hours in wet weather and there were emotional scenes as he took part in a walkabout celebrating his summer of success.
In Edinburgh, Sir Chris Hoy took part in a raucous Olympic homecoming, where he received the freedom of the city. About 30,000 turned out to watch Sir Chris and other Olympians and Paralympians in an open-top bus parade through the city centre. Meanwhile, athletes with ties to the north-east of Scotland also took part in an open-top bus tour in Aberdeen.
The size of the crowds and the evident warmth of these receptions speak to a truth that the Olympic Games proved to be far more popular than the Scottish Government ever envisioned. They are also testimony to a truth that it is possible to be a proud member of “Team GB” and an equally proud Scot with massive support from Scottish fans.
What might otherwise have gone down as one of the most miserable summers ever will be remembered as a year of stunning success and triumph. What would cap this series of great achievements is a surge of enthusiasm among the young to get out and try their hand at athletics and sports events that, until this year, seemed so remote. Now we have local champions aplenty.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
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Wind direction: North east
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