Hello! faces further £3m legal bill

Hello! has been ordered by the High Court to pay an estimated £2m of the £4m costs run up in the case brought against it by Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas and rival OK! over unauthorised photographs of the Hollywood couple’s wedding.

In addition, the magazine will have to pay its own costs of fighting the case, which are put at £1m, and interest of £120,000.

However, the decision by Mr Justice Lindsey leaves the Douglases and OK! with the prospect of being out of pocket as they stand to pay £2m of their own costs, which is more than the damages awarded in the case.

In the High Court last November, the Douglases were awarded £14,600 damages over use of the pictures. OK!, which had bought the exclusive wedding picture rights from the stars for £1m, was awarded £1,033,156.

In his ruling, the judge said that while he considered Hello!’s conduct had fallen well short of what was to be expected in some respects, there was some justice in the plea put forward by James Price QC for Hello! that “they have already been punished enough”.

In his November decision, the judge ruled that the Douglases were entitled to compensation on the basis that Hello! had breached confidentiality in its use of the unauthorised photographs, snatched by a gate-crashing member of the paparazzi.

He said they were entitled to compensation in part for the “distress” they had suffered. He awarded them £3,750 each, together with a joint award of £7,000 for the costs involved in them having to bring forward preparation and approval of the authorised photographs for OK! and a nominal £50 each under the 1998 Data Protection Act.

The snatched pictures were taken by Rupert Thorpe, son of former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe, who put on a tuxedo and managed to get in to the wedding.

By Roger Pearson

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