Prince harry the sun
Freedom of the press: A naked Prince Harry on the cover of The Sun

The Sun has become the first British newspaper to publish naked photographs of Prince Harry in Las Vegas - a move which it describes as a "crucial test of Britain's free press".

But Jonathan Collett, director of communications at the PCC, told IB Times UK that the pictures, published on the Sun's front cover, received 150 complaints from the general public on the morning they hit the newsstand.

The Sun's publication of the pictures follows a threat from St James's Palace that such a decision would amount to an invasion of privacy - even though the images have been available on the American website TMZ.

Collett said that the PCC had not received a complaint from the royal family's lawyers in relation to the Sun's cover.

The photographs appear under the headline "Heir It Is". The day before publishing the images, The Sun used two reporters to pose nude in a mock-up of the photographs for its front page.

In an editorial explaining its decision to run the pictures, the Sun describes as "absurd" the notion that it should not be able to use the photographs on its front page - which has been widely circulated and seen by millions online.

It adds: "There is a clear public interest in publishing the Harry pictures, in order for the debate around them to be fully informed. The photos have potential implications for the Prince's image representing Britain around the world."

Managing editor David Dinsmore explains the paper thought "long and hard" about whether to run the images.

He added: "We are not against his letting his hair down once in a while, for us this is about the freedom of the press.

"This is about the ludicrous situation where a picture can be seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world on the internet but can't be seen on the nation's favourite paper read by eight million people every day.

"This is about our readers getting involved in the discussion with the man who is third in line to the throne. It's a simple as that.

The move was welcomed by The Sun's former editor Kelvin Mackenzie. He told BBC2's Newsnight: "If Prince Harry with no clothes on in a Las Vegas hotel room, surrounded by one naked woman and a load of other people he has just met in drinking-stripping game, is not a story then it is hard to know what is.

"People should stop worrying about privacy and start worrying about what free speech will mean to this country if the Levesons and the Camerons of this country have their way."

Former deputy prime minister Lord John Prescott said the paper had shown "absolute utter contempt" for the law and media ethics by printing the pictures, and its decision to do so was about money, not privacy.

A spokesperson for St James's Palace said: "We have made our views on Prince Harry's privacy known. Newspapers regulate themselves, so the publication of the photographs is ultimately a decision for editors to make.

"We have no further comment to make either on the publication of the photographs or on the story itself concerning Prince Harry's private holiday in Las Vegas."