Palace officials will not pursue a complaint with the British media watchdog over naked pictures of Prince Harry.

Story highlights

Palace official says pursuing a complaint "would prove to be a distraction" for the prince

Harry is now deployed to Afghanistan with the British military

The prince was photographed naked while playing strip billiards in his hotel room

He was on a predeployment trip to Las Vegas with friends at the time

London CNN  — 

Palace officials will not pursue a complaint with the British media watchdog over pictures of Prince Harry partying naked in his Las Vegas hotel room, a spokesman for St. James’s Palace said.

Although widely circulated online, the photographs were published in only one UK newspaper, The Sun.

The daily tabloid, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. empire, argued that there was “a clear public interest” in allowing its readers to see the images under debate.

Other UK media outlets respected a request by St. James’s Palace not to publish the images, one of which showed Harry – Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and third in line to the throne – using his hands to shield his modesty, while another showed his bare bottom.

The Press Complaints Commission, the UK’s media watchdog, said at the time that it would be inappropriate for it to take action in the absence of a formal complaint by palace officials.

The St. James’s Palace spokesman told CNN the commission had been informed of its decision Thursday.

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“We remain of the opinion that a hotel room is a private space where its occupants would have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” he said.

The prince was photographed during a game of strip billiards in his swanky hotel suite with friends and a group of women they had met.

The Las Vegas stay turned out to be a predeployment trip for the prince, who is now in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan in his role as an Apache helicopter pilot for the British Army.

“Prince Harry is currently focused entirely on his deployment in Afghanistan, so to pursue a complaint relating to his private life would not be appropriate at this time and would prove to be a distraction,” the palace spokesman said. 

“We have concluded that it would not be prudent to pursue the matter further, and we will have no further comment to make about the matter.”

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Only three weeks after the media furor over the Prince Harry pictures, another controversy embroiled the royal family – this time over publication in France and elsewhere of photographs of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, sunbathing topless while on a private vacation with Prince William.

Palace officials responded angrily to what they slammed as “a grotesque and totally unjustifiable” invasion of the couple’s privacy. Criminal proceedings have been launched in France over publication of the images in the French Closer magazine. British newspapers have not published the photos.

The British media is under close scrutiny after revelations of phone hacking and other abuses. The conclusions of an independent judge-led inquiry, which may recommend greater restrictions on media freedoms, are expected by the end of the year.

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CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.