French photographers who took pictures of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed on the day of their fatal high-speed car crash went back to court today accused of invasion of privacy.
The three photographers were acquitted last November, but both the prosecutor’s office and Mohammed al Fayed, the father of Diana’s boyfriend, appealed.
Following the hearing in Paris, a verdict is expected on September 14.
The men were among the many photographers who either followed the car carrying Diana and her boyfriend through the French capital on August 31, 1997, or snapped photos after it hit a pillar in an underpass.
Jacques Langevin, the only one of the three to appear in court, argued that he was just doing his job by following ”personalities who were known worldwide.”
“I don’t have the impression of having violated their privacy,” he said.
The photographers’ pictures were confiscated and never published.
Claire Dubriez, a lawyer for photographer Christian Martinez, argued that the crash scene, no matter how upsetting or lurid, was newsworthy. She also said it would be a dangerous precedent to rule against photographers for merely snapping - not publishing – images of a crash.
“This is at the heart of the right to know,” she said.
When the court acquitted the three photographers, it ruled that a crashed vehicle on a road is not a private space – a precedent-setting decision.
It also said the couple knew they would be photographed when leaving the Ritz Hotel, where they were staying.
The case focused on photos snapped both before and after the accident – a distinction that Prosecutor Antoine Bartoli highlighted in his recommendations today.
Bartoli argued that Martinez and another photographer, Fabrice Chassery, should be acquitted for pictures taken after the crash, following the logic of the initial verdict.
However, he noted that Chassery and Langevin had snapped shots of the couple earlier in the evening, when they left the Ritz. Without recommending conviction outright, the prosecutor said that those photos could in fact be considered an invasion of privacy because the couple were trying to appear discreet and had not given their consent.
Mohammed al Fayed did not attend the hearing. His lawyer, Bernard Dartevelle, argued that a car should always be considered a private space.
The trial stemmed from a criminal complaint by Dodi Fayed’s father.
Diana’s relatives and the British royal family were not plaintiffs in the case, meaning that Diana’s privacy was not an issue in court.
A French court has ruled that the crash was an accident caused by drunk and speeding driver Henri Paul, who also died. However, another investigation has been opened to determine whether the deadly crash could have been the result of a plot.
London Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens visited Paris in April to retrace Diana’s final moments to determine if she may have been the victim of a criminal conspiracy.
Stevens’ investigation is being carried out at the direction of royal coroner Michael Burgess, who opened an inquest into Diana’s death in January.
The inquest came after persistent accusations from Mohammed al Fayed that the the circumstances surrounding the crash were covered up.