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Wednesday, May 26, 1999 Published at 14:32 GMT


Sophie's cause for complaint

Is Sophie Rhys-Jones' private life public property?

By BBC Media Correspondent Torin Douglas

Buckingham Palace has made a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about the publication of the topless picture of Sophie Rhys-Jones.

The complaint has been made under Section Three of the industry's code of practice, which states that "everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life".

When a complaint like this is made, a publication is expected to justify any intrusions made without consent.

Usually the justification put forward is that the story is "in the public interest", but the Sun has made no such claim so far - and it seems hard to see how it could do so.

'Adding insult to injury'

In a leading article, the paper acknowledges that the Queen "may not be amused" at its "world picture exclusive" - but it urges her to relax.

"Sophie Rhys-Jones is the best thing to happen to the Royals for years" it says.

"The fact she's been a fun-loving girl in her youth shows she's a right royal laugh. Edward is a lucky man. So are the Royals."

[ image: Lenny Henry has also received unwanted media attention this week]
Lenny Henry has also received unwanted media attention this week
In the terms of the Code, that is unlikely to be seen as a legitimate justification. Indeed, some might say it adds insult to injury, for the term "fun-loving" is often used by the tabloids as a euphemism, to suggest someone has had an extremely wild past.

Public disapproval of the publication of the photographs has already been made in phone-calls to radio stations - notably the two London commercial stations caught up in the situation.

Capital Radio, whose disc-jockey Chris Tarrant was seen in the photographs lifting Sophie Rhys-Jones's bikini top, says it's received thousands of calls and faxes condemning the publication, while its rival Heart 106.2 has sacked the breakfast presenter who took the photograph and released it to The Sun.

It's the third day in a row that The Sun has exposed a celebrity's private life, with front-page stories about Lennie Henry on Monday and Ian Botham on Tuesday.

Media analysts suggest this may be a response to the fact that the paper - though still easily the UK's biggest-selling daily - has recently seen a slight fall in its sales, while those of its main rival - The Mirror - have gone up.

And though many people may disapprove of it publishing the Sophie Rhys-Jones pictures, it seems certain to have sold more copies as a result.

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