Police today raided the headquarters of the French magazine which published topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Officers arrived at the Closer building in Paris at 10am, with detectives confirming they were looking for information ‘which might lead to the identity’ of the paparazzi responsible.
The investigation was launched by prosecutors in the French capital on Monday, with William and Kate later winning an injunction preventing further distribution of the images.
But Christophe Bigot , a barrister who specialises in media law, immediately questioned the legality of the raid – suggesting that it had solely been authoritised because members of the Royal Family were involved.
Journalistic sources – who include photographers – are strictly protected by French law which was tightened up as recently as two years ago.
‘A law of January 2, 2010 protects the confidentiality of sources, as do numerous decisions of the European Court of Human Rights,’ said Mr Bigot.
‘In the case of William and Kate, I do not see how a prosecutor could justify a search of Closer.’
On Tuesday, judges ordered Closer to hand over all files containing the images to representatives of the couple within 24 hours, but there was no order to name the photographer.
Referring to today’s raid, a police source said : ‘The aim is to seize any information which might lead to the identity of the photographer.’
The photos were taken on September 5th from a public road up to a mile from Chateau d’Autet, a 15 million pounds leisure retreat owned by Viscount Linley, where the couple were staying.
The court agreed that the couple ‘could legitimately suppose the chateau, east of Avignon in Provence, was sheltered from prying eyes’ and that the violation of their privacy was ‘particularly intrusive’.
The court ruling described the magazine’s use of the photos as a ‘brutal exhibition’ of their intimacy.
However, the court ruled that it was ‘beyond its powers’ to ‘ban the republication of the magazine’.
The royal couple’s lawyers had not asked for copies already in newsagents to be removed from shelves as ‘the damage has already been done’.
The preliminary criminal investigation remains against’ ‘people unknown’, with nobody yet knowing who the photographer who stalked Chateau d’Autet was.
Earlier this week a local newspaper photographer has admitted being at the scene, and taking a picture of William and Kent by the chateau’s swimming pool.
But Philippe Minard, the managing editor of La Provence, insisted that Valerie Suau was not responsible for taking the topless pictures.
Valerie whose name is pronounced ‘sewer’ said she took pictures of Kate in her swimsuit, but not, she says, topless.
She described her pictures, published in France’s La Provence regional newspaper, as ‘all decent’.
Mondatori Magazines France, the Closer’s publisher, faces a 10,000-euro fine for every day that photos are distributed.
It was also ordered to pay 2,000 euros in court costs, the written injunction handed down by the judges states.
The ruling prevents Closer, which published the pictures in its current edition, from reusing them in print or on its website.
It is also prevented from selling them to countries where they have not been published. The penalty for sale of the photos was set at 100,000 euros. Publishing of the photos was also banned ‘on digital tablets’.
Despite the court victory, the pictures are already widely available on the Internet and have been printed in Ireland’s Daily Star newspaper and Italy’s Chi magazine.