LONDON – French authorities have reaffirmed that they will not compel photographers to appear at the British inquest into the death of Princess Diana, the coroner said Tuesday.
Photographers who pursued Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, through Paris and were at the scene moments after their August 1997 car crash have refused to give evidence.
The acting coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, said last week that French authorities expressed concern about the cross-examination of witnesses, including Stephane Darmon, a motorcycle driver for one of the photographers.
Baker said Tuesday that French authorities were asked to allow photographers to testify by videolink.
"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," he said.
There are two reasons for the French position, Baker said.
For one, the photographers and their lawyers "have forcefully argued that they have already given evidence on numerous occasions and have nothing new to say," he said. "The French authorities consider this a fair argument provided we have access to all the testimonies already given."
The second issue involved the French concept of "ordre public" — public policy.
He said French authorities consider it "far from clear" whether French law allows courts to order witnesses to appear for hearings that essentially are administrative rather than criminal in nature.
"If force were used to compel witnesses to appear, this could damage relations between the media, the government and the general public," he said.
Referring to French concerns about cross-examination, Baker added: "I emphasize that there is no place for aggressive or repetitive questioning of witnesses, although it is perfectly proper for inconsistencies in a witness' evidence — or between his evidence and that of other witnesses — to be put to him.
"If I think the mark is being overstepped, I shall intervene."