Prince Harry Wins “Substantial Damages” For Infringement of Privacy Over Aerial Photos Taken of His Cotswold Home
The Duke of Sussex has accepted substantial damages and welcomed a formal apology from Splash News and Picture Agency over aerial photographs taken of his home in Oxfordshire, says Buckingham Palace.
In court documents, lawyers for the Duke of Sussex documented how Splash News and Picture Agency, a well-known paparazzi agency, flew a helicopter over the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Oxfordshire property, taking pictures of “the living area and dining area of the home and directly into the bedroom.”
The pictures were published by the Times newspaper and elsewhere online. On 11 January 2019, soon after the images appeared online and across national media outlets the Duke of Sussex, represented by the law firm Harbottle & Lewis LLP wrote to the Splash, bringing a legal claim against the paparazzi agency. The principal cause of action claimed by his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex being “misuse of private information, breach of the Duke’s right to privacy, GDPR laws and the Data Protection Act.”
The parties have now reached an out of court settlement on the action and granting permission for an open statement on details of the settlement to be read out on the Duke’s behalf in court today, Judge, Barbara Fontaine Senior Master, Queen's Bench Division ruled that “the evidence supports the position” that the photographs in question “did undermine in a serious way the safety and security of the applicant and his wife”.
The court statement read out by the Duke’s lawyer, Gerrard Tyrrell added: “On 9 January 2019 Splash chartered a helicopter for the purpose of taking photographs and recording video footage of The Duke's private home In Oxfordshire. The property had been chosen by the Duke for himself and his wife given the high level of privacy it afforded given its position in a secluded area surrounded by private farmland away from any areas to which photographers have access. The helicopter flew over the home at a low altitude allowing Splash to take photographs of and into the living area and dining area of the home and directly into the bedroom.”
“The photographs were taken for commercial gain and syndicated for that purpose....No consent was given to the actions taken by Splash. The Duke has had to engage his solicitors to take steps to try to secure the removal of the photographs from these websites.”
“The syndication and publication of the photographs very seriously undermined the safety and security of The Duke and the home to the extent that they are no longer able to live at the property.”
In the statement, the court heard that Splash had agreed to pay a substantial sum in damages and legal costs, which has not been disclosed, the paparazzi news agency has also undertaken to “cease and desist selling from selling, issuing, publishing or making available the photographs or any photographs which are the same or colourably similar, and, second, that it will not repeat its conduct by using any aerial means to take photographs or film footage of the Duke's private home which would infringe privacy or data rights or otherwise be unlawful activity."
The settlement reflects the increased use of the law by celebrities and public figures for redress against the intrusive lens of the Paparazzi media. In 2017 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were awarded £91,000 in damages by a French court, against the celebrity magazine Closer one of the biggest publishing companies in Europe, after the court ruled that topless photos taken of the Duchess of Cambridge Kate on holiday at a private residence in the Luberon region of Provence were an invasion of the couple’s privacy.
Splash in an open statement sent to Britain's Press Association news agency on the case, admitted that the situation represented an “error or judgement” and that they “have taken steps to ensure it will not be repeated.”
The case: His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex v Splash News and Picture Agency Ltd & anr (Before Mr Justice Warby)