American firm dismisses Harry and Meghan’s request to turn over photos
American photo agency Backgrid USA rejected Prince Harry and Meghan’s demand for the photos from what was dubbed a “near catastrophic car chase” on Tuesday. The couple allegedly argues that the photos taken were captured in an illegal manner and are now involved in a legal quibble with the company.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex claimed to have been pursued by the paparazzi after leaving the Ms. Foundation Women of Vision Awards event in New York City. Official reports state that the couple, who were accompanied by Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, and two bodyguards, spent “two hours” trying to evade photographers.
An official statement from a Sussex spokesperson said, “Last night, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Ms. Ragland were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi. This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians, and two NYPD officers.”
“While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone's safety,” the spokesperson added.
Many people have compared the incident to the paparazzi chase that led Princess Diana, Harry’s mother, to her death. The Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while trying to get away from photographers.
Others, however, speculate that this was simply a PR stunt by the couple and a means to get formal police protection that they lost upon leaving the royal family.
The Firm has refused to issue any comment on the situation.
Pics or It Didn’t Happen
The public seems to be divided on whether the “near catastrophic car chase” really happened or if the Sussexes over-exaggerated some details. The fact that few photos from the pursuit have been seen only fuels speculation.
While the NYPD has confirmed that they “assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex” on Tuesday evening and that “there were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging,” they described the situation in a significantly toned-down manner.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests in regard,” stated Julian Phillips, NYPD’s deputy commissioner.
One of the members of the Sussex security team, Chris Sanchez, however, recalled, “I have never seen, experienced anything like this. What we were dealing with was very chaotic. The Sussexes were scared — but were relieved when they returned to the apartment where they were staying.
He then added, “The public were in jeopardy at several points. It could have been fatal.”
The driver of their taxi, Sukhcharn Singh, confirmed this in an interview with CNN, “I’ve been driving now since 2018, this was the first time I saw this. Other celebrities never got that much attention from the paparazzi.”
In addition, Prince Harry was seen filming the paparazzi with his phone and some fans speculate that he may be using it as legal evidence in the future.
Not Yours to Keep
Following the altercation, Backgrid received a letter from the Sussex legal team that said, “We hereby demand that Backgrid immediately provide us with copies of all photos, videos, and/or films taken last night by the freelance photographers after the couple left their event and over the next several hours.”
The photo agency refused, claiming the couple have no rights to their copyrighted material, and responded with:
“In America, as I’m sure you know, property belongs to the owner of it: Third parties cannot just demand it be given to them, as perhaps Kings can do.
“Perhaps you should sit down with your client and advise them that his English rules of royal prerogative to demand that the citizenry hand over their property to the Crown were rejected by this country long ago. We stand by our founding fathers.”
Backgrid did add that they were taking “Prince Harry’s allegations seriously” and will be investigating what happened as they do not “condone any form of harassment or illegal activity.”
The agency did admit to receiving photos from four different photographers from that night. However, the photographers on site reported that, “The couple was not in immediate danger at any point,” and that no one “had no intention of causing any distress or harm, as their only tool was their cameras.”
Neither Harry nor Meghan have been seen since the incident and no further response has yet been reported from the Sussex side. However, Meghan is set to attend the Gracie Awards on May 23 at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles.