A Scottish castle, a semi-clad maiden and a libel suit

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Nov 24, 2017
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The castle, said to be the inspiration for the Disney Cinderella film, was used for a nude photoshoot 

Martyn Gorman

Once upon a time, pictures of a beautiful maiden trapped inside a fairytale castle would inspire an act of heroism by a lovelorn prince (Mike Wade writes).

But when “artistic” images of a model in various states of undress were shot at Craigievar Castle, a 17th century fortress in Aberdeenshire, there was to be no happy ending. Instead, Craigievar, reputed to be the model for Disney’s Cinderella castle, has become the emblem of a thoroughly modern libel case, which began to play out in the High Court yesterday.

Howard Kennedy, the photographer, claims that the castle’s owners, the National Trust for Scotland, defamed him in the aftermath of the shoot, damaging his business with a blunt dismissal of his work.

The trust acted only after it was told about the pictures by Gabriel Forbes-Sempill, daughter of the 19th Lord Sempill, who gave the castle to the trust in 1963. She said: “I am by no means a prude but I don’t believe my parents gave the castle to the nation for this sort of thing.”

Kennedy and his wife Karen took pictures of Rachelle Summers, 25, sitting on a bed or staring alluringly out of window. The photographer then advertised the prints for sale online to buyers all over the world.

It took four years for images of Summers to catch the eye of Forbes-Sempill, but as soon as she registered her outrage the trust went into battle on her behalf. It issued a statement saying that the pictures were unauthorised and denied there was evidence that permission had been granted for a photoshoot. Moreover, the trust said that it “would never sanction photographs of this nature – especially at a location that is regularly visited by families with children”.

Kennedy is adamant that he acted entirely properly and is suing the trust for up to £50,000, claiming that it was untruthful, had damaged his reputation and caused him to lose a substantial amount of business.

He wants the case to be heard by an English judge because, according to his lawyer, his “substantial business reputation in England” had been damaged. In England too, Mr Kennedy would have the potential to win higher damages and use no-win no-fee lawyers, the judge, Sir David Eady, was told.

Sir David reserved judgment on where the case should be heard. 

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