Formula One boss Max Mosley has today won his privacy action against the News of the World.
The newspaper, which had accused the 68-year-old son of the 1930s Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley of taking part in a ‘sick Nazi orgy’with five prostitutes, must now pay him £60,000 compensation – a record in UK privacy cases.
Mr Justice Eady said: ‘I have decided the claimant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to sexual activities albeit unconventional carried out between consenting adults on private property.”
In his judgment he said: ‘I found there was no evidence that the gathering on 28 March 2008 was intended to be an enactment of Nazi behaviour or an adoption of any of its attitudes. I see no genuine basis at all for the suggestion that the participants mocked the victims of the Holocaust.
‘There was bondage. beating and domination which seemed to be typical of S&M behaviour. But there was no public interest or other justification for the clandestine recording, for the publication of the resulting information and still photographs, or the placing of the video extracts on the News of the World website – all of this on a massive scale.
‘Of course, I accept that such behaviour is viewed by some people with distaste and moral disapproval, but in the light of modern rights-based jurisprudence this does not prove any justification for the intrusion into the personal privacy of the claimant.”
Eady decided not to award exemplary damages, as Mosley had sought, but the £60,000 compensation is the highest ever given in a UK privacy case. The previous highest was £5,000.
Eady emphasised that this should be seen as a “landmark” judgment.
He said: ‘It is simply the application to rather unusual facts of recently developed but established principles. Nor can it be seriously suggested that the case is likely to inhibit serious investigation into crime or wrongdoing, where the public interest is more genuinely engaged.”
Eady ordered the newspaper to pay Mosley’s legal costs, estimated at £450,000. The News of the World’s own costs are expected to be several hundred thousand pounds.
The newspaper was ordered to make an interim payment of £200,000.
Mosley walked out to a huge media scrum with dozens of photographers and reporters, illustrating the massive national and international interest in the case. He said: ‘I am delighted with the judgment which is devastating for the News of the World.’He added that the ruling demonstrated the paper’s ‘Nazi lies”. He also said it ‘shows that they had no right to go into private premises”.
Mosley, president of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile), did not dispute taking part in sado-masochistic roleplay at a rented Chelsea basement flat, but said it was consensual and private, with no Nazi overtones.
He said his life was devastated by the March expose and by the newspaper putting secretly-filmed footage of what it called a ‘truly grotesque and depraved’event on its website, attracting at least 3.5 million hits at the last count.
James Price QC told London’s High Court that the ‘gross and indefensible intrusion’by the tabloid was made worse by the false suggestion that Mosley was playing a concentration camp commandant and a cowering death camp inmate.
Speaking outsidide court NoW editor Colin Myler, said: “The News of the World believes passionately that its readers deserve to be informed when the trust placed in their elected leaders and public officials has been violated.
“It is not for the rich and famous, the powerful and the influential, to dictate the news agenda, just because they have the money and the means to gag a free press.”