The Sun has become the first newspaper in Britain to publish pictures of a naked Prince Harry taken in Las Vegas, saying it did so in the ‘vital’ interests of a free press.
Up until today’s edition of the Sun no UK paper had published the two photos, taken last week in his hotel suite showing the prince cavorting with a similarly unclothed, unnamed woman, following a request from St James’s Palace to the Press Complaints Commission.
The tabloid, which yesterday splashed on a mock-up of one of the pictures with two members of staff, said it was ‘absurd’ British papers were staying clear of the photos despite them being widely available online.
An accompanying editorial in the paper said: ‘The photos have potential implications for the Prince’s image representing Britain around the world.
‘There are questions over his security during the Las Vegas holiday. Questions as to whether his position in the Army might be affected. Further, we believe Harry has compromised his own privacy.’
St James’s Palace said it was ultimately down to editors to decide whether to publish the photos.
‘We have made our views on Prince Harry’s privacy known,’ the palace said. ‘Newspapers regulate themselves, so the publication of the photographs is ultimately a decision for editors to make.’
Up until now newspapers had detailed the 27-year-old prince’s antics without publishing the images, which first appeared on US gossip website TMZ before being replicated around the world.
It had been suggested that privacy concerns raised by the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics had convinced editors to ignore the photos.
TMZ said the photos were taken last Friday after the prince and his entourage met some women in a hotel bar and invited them up to the royal’s suite.
The group played a game of ‘strip pool’ and someone in the party is thought to have captured the images of the naked prince on a camera phone.
In the first photograph, which is published on the Sun’s front page, the royal is shown wearing just a necklace and a wristband with his hands around his genitals as a seemingly topless woman stands close behind him.
The nude prince is shown in another picture shielding himself behind an unknown woman who is also naked, with his bare bottom facing the camera.
Sun managing editor David Dinsmore explained: ‘We have thought long and hard about this. The Sun is a responsible paper and it works closely with the royal family. We take heed of their wishes.
‘We’re also big fans of Prince Harry, he does a huge amount of work for this country and for the military and for the image of both of those institutions
‘We are not against him letting his hair down once in a while. For us this is about the freedom of the press.’
Mr Dinsmore continued: ‘This is about the ludicrous situation where a picture can be seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world on the internet, but can’t be seen in the nation’s favourite paper read by eight million people every day.
‘This is about our readers getting involved in discussion with the man who’s third in line to the throne, it’s as simple as that.’
Brian Cathcart, director of press standards campaign group Hacked Off, said the Sun’s argument about press freedoms was ‘nonsense’.
‘This is the country’s biggest-selling newspaper breaking the industry’s own code despite clear warnings. It is flagrant proof that our national newspapers are incapable of regulating their own affairs,’ he said.
‘This is about the Sun’s right to trample over the industry’s own feeble rules when it likes, and also to invade people’s privacy whenever it chooses.’