High Court refuses Google application to have Max Mosley privacy action thrown out

The High Court has refused to block legal action brought by former Formula One boss Max Mosley (pictured, Reuters) over the continuing availability on Google of images of him at a sex party.

Mr Justice Mitting, sitting in London, said last week that the claim brought against US-based Google Inc under the Data Protection Act was "not such that it has no real prospect of success" and should continue.

He said: "On the contrary, it seems to me to be a viable claim which raises questions of general public interest which ought to proceed to trial."

Google's lawyers argued that Mosley's case was unsustainable in fact and law and should be struck out.

The litigation follows Mosley's 2008 privacy victory against the now-defunct News of the World when he won £60,000 compensation after it accused him of taking part in a "sick Nazi orgy" with five prostitutes.

Mosley, the son of the 1930s fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, did not dispute taking part in the sadomasochistic role-play at a rented Chelsea basement flat, but said it was consensual and private, with no Nazi overtones.

He said that his life was devastated by the March 2008 expose and by the newspaper putting secretly-filmed footage on its website, which attracted at least 3.5m hits.

After the hearing, Mosley said: "I am very pleased with the result.

"What is important is that they are now going to have to come in front of the courts in the UK, where they do an enormous amount of business, to seek to justify their conduct.

"The only thing I regret is that it was necessary to have a hearing in the High Court in order to get them to do this."

The judge, who was told that Mosley's action against Google UK under the Data Protection Act had been discontinued, went on to stay his damages claim against Google Inc for misuse of private information, which he had described as "deeply problematic".

The remaining action concerns Mosley's bid to obtain an order requiring the search engine to cease processing the images.

Google's counsel, Antony White QC, said that it had used its notice and takedown procedures to block images when specific URLs had been provided because, whatever the strict legal position, it had some sympathy for Mosley and wished to avoid a dispute.

But, Mosley's counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC, said he had been forced to engage in what a Canadian court had described as an "endless game of 'whack-a-mole'".

This was despite the fact that it was possible – as Google now accepted – for it to take technical steps to prevent the images being indexed by Google Search in the first place.

The judge said that Mosley "plainly has a legal remedy, which the court may grant".

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