Diana snappers charged 68p damages

Three photographers must pay damages for invading the privacy of the late Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed on the night the couple were killed in Paris almost a decade ago, a French court heard this week.

Jacques Langevin, Christian Martinez and Fabrice Chassery were told they broke French privacy laws when they snapped the couple both at the scene of the accident, and in the minutes before as they fled paparazzi.

The conviction of the three, brought by Dodi’s father, Mohamed Fayed, marks the first court case against any individual arising from the accident in 1997, and leaves each photographer saddled with a token fine of €1 each – about 68p.

The charge springs from the decision of the trio to snap photographs inside a car without permission, which is an offence under French privacy laws.

The sum is said to be imposed by for an offence that is seen as more technical than morally reprehensible, much to the disappointment of Mohamed Fayed, who believes the snappers hounded the couple to their deaths.

Mr Fayed also claims the paparazzi are part of a wider conspiracy, which relies on the hounding of photographers to cover up the identities of the parties behind his son’s and Princess Diana’s murder.

On Wednesday night, American TV viewers heard from Mr Fayed, who is owner of the Harrods store in London, that the paparazzi are still “being used as a cover for the murder,” and that the mastermind behind the crash was a British spy disguised as a photographer.

Such claims are disputed by a French judicial inquiry that said the excessive speed of the couple’s Mercedes-Benz, being driven by a drunk driver, Henri Paul, was to blame.

Controversy still surrounds when, how and even whether Paul consumed as much alcohol as police said, and to this end, a British investigation into the accident is being undertaken by Lord Stevens, former Commissioner of the Met Police.

His findings will not affect the ruling against the three photographers, which alongside the 68p charge must pay for adverts announcing the verdict in three papers, to be selected by Mr Fayed.

“I am encouraged by the fact that each battle I fight takes me a step nearer the truth, despite all the opposition and hostility that I encounter from those in power,” Mr Fayed said in a statement, obtained by the Daily Telegraph.

The pictures taken by the three photographers have never been published but have been screened on television and are said to appear on post-mortem internet sites.


24th February 2006

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