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Lord Justice Scott Baker
Assistant Deputy Coroner of Inner West London

Court 73, Royal Courts of Justice

6 November 2007

Statement on Paparazzi


The position with regard to the paparazzi is as follows. The French authorities were invited, in view of the importance of the paparazzi to these inquests and because of the possibility of some misunderstanding, to look again at their decision not to compel them to attend to give evidence by video-link.

I have been assured that the French authorities remain committed to their policy of co-operation and transparency. Indeed I am indebted to them for the resources and assistance that they have provided and are continuing to provide. However, the paparazzi will not be compelled to appear and, as I have already explained, I have no power to compel them to give evidence.

I am told there are two reasons for the French authorities’ decision. The first is that the individuals concerned and their lawyers have forcefully argued that they have already given evidence on numerous occasions and have nothing new to say. The French authorities considered this a fair argument provided we have access to all the testimony already given – which we have. Had this not been the case they might have taken a different view, subject to whether they have any power of compulsion, to which I shall refer in a minute.

The second reason is that there were considerations of ‘ordre publique’ which is a very broad legal term. If force were used to compel witnesses to appear this could damage relations between the media, the government and the general public.

In any event, the French authorities regard it as far from clear whether French law allows the courts, even in a case being heard in France, to oblige witnesses to appear where the proceedings are essentially administrative in nature rather than criminal. Any attempt to force the paparazzi to attend would be likely to lead to a real risk of the French equivalent of judicial review.

For my part, while I would have preferred to hear oral evidence from the paparazzi, I understand and respect the decisions of the French authorities and although I am disappointed with the decision I am grateful to them for their continuing assistance in providing video-link facilities and bringing witnesses to them.