- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 6, 2007

LONDON — Lawyers for Prince William’s girlfriend, Kate Middleton, plan a “three-pronged” attack over persistent harassment by photographers.

Harbottle & Lewis, the firm that represents Prince Charles as well as Miss Middleton, is poised to take civil and criminal action against those they say make her life intolerable, the Sunday Telegraph has learned.

Lawyers also are preparing a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), the press watchdog, over newspapers and magazines that have published intrusive pictures as well as against the photographers themselves.

The driving force behind the action is Prince William, 24, who describes the behavior of the paparazzi as “utter madness,” particularly on the eve of the inquest into his mother’s death, which opens tomorrow. A report from John Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, concluded last month that the pursuing paparazzi had contributed to the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed in a Paris crash in 1997.

The scramble for pictures of Miss Middleton — which can pay up to $35,000 each for an exclusive image — has been prompted by speculation that the couple are about to get engaged after a three-year romance. Royal aides say, however, that only the press spreads such rumors, not the couple or their families.

Harbottle & Lewis will use a European Court of Human Rights ruling from two years ago — and won against paparazzi photographers by Princess Caroline of Monaco — to protect Miss Middleton in civil action in the English courts. The firm also intends to use criminal laws against harassment and road traffic offenses against photographers.

The lawyer tasked with coordinating the action, Gerrard Tyrrell, also acted for several celebrities in their battles against the press.

Legal sources familiar with the effort to protect Miss Middleton, who turns 25 on Tuesday, say it is a matter of when — not if — lawyers move into action. “Sooner rather than later, push will come to shove,” said one.

One senior courtier said: “Kate is a bright, down-to-earth young woman, but there is a limit to how much more of this she can take. The situation is becoming unbearable.”

Every morning, Miss Middleton is confronted by up to a dozen photographers outside her home in Chelsea, in southwest London. Some pursue her in a “military-style operation” as she drives to Kew, seven miles away, where she works as a buyer for the clothing chain Jigsaw.

Last week, Harbottle & Lewis also complained to Scotland Yard for the first time over Miss Middleton’s harassment. Mr. Tyrrell has written several critical letters to newspapers and magazines and has copied them to the PCC. The correspondence has urged restraint and reminded editors that if they use photographs taken by the paparazzi they must take responsibility for the photographers’ behavior.

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