My view on the naked Prince Harry photos debacle

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Jonathan is a specialist corporate and commercial solicitor who has over 11 years of experience at both large international City firms and smaller practices. For the last two years he has worked on a self-employed basis with a network of other freelance lawyers focused on entrepreneur-led businesses. If you'd like a competitive quote for any legal work please send an email to the address on the home page. You can also follow him on Twitter @jonathanlea

Now the dust has settled a little I thought I’d contribute a few of my thoughts in respect of Prince Harry being photographed unwinding in Las Vegas playing ‘strip billiards’ after a stressful few weeks watching the Olympics and then being entertained on Richard Branson’s Caribbean island.

Privacy laws

If you are a public figure who lives off publicity and sharing their life with the masses you can’t be expected to freely expose all the good things about you, but then as soon as your reputation might be threatened by something you’ve done that might be seen as negative then try and rely on your ‘right to privacy’ and ‘any publication not being in the public interest’.

The fact that the Royal Family threatened the UK press by spuriously stating that any re-publication of Harry’s photos on the web would not be in the public interest and would infringe Harry’s privacy makes them as grubby and deceitful as Ryan Giggs trying to protect his reputation last year by abusing the ever evolving pernicious UK privacy laws. The more people try to rely on their ‘right to privacy’ the more the courts will continue to set precedents and pass more and more restrictive case law that will threaten our freedom and rights to information and expression.  Indeed, the Royal Family has form when it comes to their distaste and lack of respect for freedom of information laws.  They have previously been granted absolute protection from public scrutiny in controversial legal reforms designed to draw a veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William.

In any case, the fact that over 135 million (and counting) googled ‘Prince Harry naked’ shows that there was a lot of public interest in the photos!!  No authority should be able to determine what information is or isn’t in someone else’s interest to consume. Even if you use privacy laws to judge whether Harry’s photos were in the public interest to publish, then as Louise Mensch, who recently announced her resignation as an MP, said “there is a clear, demonstrable public interest” – the Royal Family receives money from the civil list and Prince Harry in inviting so many people to his room and acting in the way he did raised serious questions in respect of his judgment as well as national security issues.

The UK must have a free press whatever that prat of a judge Lord Leveson says.  The Education Secretary Michael Gove previously referred to there being a “chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression which emanates from the debate around Leveson”.  In obsessing with newspapers and failing to grapple with the issues presented by the internet, the Leveson Inquiry seems to be even more of an absolute farce and extreme waste of public money.  Anyway, that’s for another post I think.

Prince Harry’s reputation

The gullible British public largely bought the line spun out from Clarence House public relations people and distributed through the pliant mainstream media that “Harry’s due back in Afghanistan, he’s on the lash, give the guy a break”.

In recent years a positive public image of Prince Harry has been carefully manufactured, regardless of what he really might be like in private.  However, over the years Harry has previously been recorded using racist and derogatory language in referring to arabs as ‘ragheads’ and an army cadet as “our little paki friend”, pictured dressing up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party and also shown snorting vodka and licking nipples at a party, all of which suggest that he might not be as likeable as he is otherwise portrayed to be.

His behaviour in Las Vegas was immature and loutish and not befitting of someone who has the privilege of being a national figurehead.  He was recorded as calling other punters at the casino “muppets” and joked to the dealer that he would “kick his head in” if he didn’t win.  These comments, even if made in jest and after several drinks, show Harry to be arrogant, disrespectful and rude.  Remember not only is this guy meant to represent the UK, as there is no separation of church and state in the UK, if he ever becomes king he would be head of the Church of England, as if the Church of England could get any more ridiculous.  He also showed no respect for his British subjects by wasting taxpayer monies on his security team for such a trip and abusing his position to take advantage of staying for free at some of the world’s most expensive hotels.

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