LONDON: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have asked prosecutors in France to launch criminal proceedings against the photographer who took pictures of the duchess topless and the French magazine that published them.
If successful, the photographer and the magazine's editor could be jailed for up to a year and fined up to £36,000 ($55,500).
Lawyers for the couple made a formal criminal complaint of breach of privacy and trespass at a court hearing near Paris. They were also expected to be granted an interim civil injunction banning the magazine Closer from printing more pictures and ordering it to remove images from its website.
The palace is seeking damages from the publisher, owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
A St James's Palace spokesman said: ''We can confirm a criminal complaint is to be made to the French Prosecution Department. The complaint concerns the taking of photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge while on holiday and the publication of those photographs in breach of their privacy.''
The couple has appealed to foreign newspapers and magazines to show ''commonsense and decency'' by refraining from publishing further topless photographs. But they realise they cannot take legal action in every country where the photographs might appear.
Pictures of the duchess sunbathing without her bikini top have appeared in an Irish newspaper and were due to be published in Italy, but sources at St James's Palace suggested lawsuits in those countries were unlikely.
Despite the legal action, it may be another two years before the couple can put the episode behind them, said royal sources, because of the slow progress of privacy cases in French courts.
Although the couple's legal action is being underwritten by the Prince of Wales, they are unlikely to recover the cost. Any damages will go on legal bills.
According to reports in France, the lawsuit demands a fine of $100,000 unless the magazine is withdrawn. Prince William and Kate continued their tour of the Solomon Islands yesterday on their swing through the south Pacific where they came face to face with a group of near-naked women and did not bat an eyelid when introduced.
Wearing just a few banana leaves as makeshift tops, the group performed a dance as they showcased their culture.
Their exposed breasts are a normal part of life in the Solomon Islands' province of Choiseul, where the women are from, and they happily chatted to William and Kate.
One man among their group had a greeting written in pidgin English painted on his chest - Welkam Wills and Kate.
Telegraph, London; Associated Press