Motorsport boss Max Mosley instigated a “crime upon himself” when he took part in what the News of the World called a “sick Nazi orgy”, its editor told the High Court today.
Colin Myler said that the role-play which included the 68-year-old being caned until blood was drawn did not just have a Nazi element to it, but also a “potential criminal flavour”.
Cross-examining, Mosley’s QC, James Price, said one would expect beatings at an S and M session.
Myler replied: “You say it was S and M but blood was drawn. I know it was drawn because he had a plaster on his bottom. I think it was after he’d had 15 beatings of the cane.”
Price said the newspaper was accusing Mosley of “instigating a crime upon himself”.
“Are you serious?”, he asked Myler.
The editor replied: “It is what Mr Mosley did. The News of the World did not take Mr Mosley kicking and screaming to that apartment, that flat in Chelsea.
“The News of the World did not engage five girls for five hours of what went on – which was brutal.”
Myler has told Mr Justice Eady, who is hearing the landmark breach of privacy action in London, that he believed the story was one of “legitimate public interest and one that I believe was legitimately published”.
It was “absolutely not true” that the paper fabricated the Nazi aspect of the story.
Mosley, the 68-year-old son of the 1930s Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, says that his life was devastated by the expose in March of what the newspaper called a “sick Nazi orgy with five hookers”, and is asking for an unprecedented award of punitive exemplary damages.
Price has said that the “gross and indefensible intrusion” was made substantially worse by the entirely false suggestion that Mr Mosley, president of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) was playing a concentration camp commandant and a cowering death camp inmate.
Mr Myler denied Mr Price’s suggestion that he wanted “intimate pictures of sex”.
“No, I didn’t – not at all. We wouldn’t have published intimate pictures of sex either in the paper or on the website – and we didn’t.”
He denied he was not interested in testing whether there was any Nazi element to the images, which were secretly filmed by one of the women involved, but was delighted to accept it as a justification for publication.
“Not at all,” he said.
He added that publication was probably justified on the S and M basis alone.
He said his mind was not closed and he took a balanced view on whether there was a Nazi theme.
He based his conclusion on his knowledge of general history and the connotations of the role-play – the striped prison camp uniforms, the medical inspection and the use of German.
He said he believed head inspections took place in the death camps, and that people were shaved.
Price asked: “Did they have their bottoms shaved as far as you know?”
Myler: “I don’t know.”
He added: “We felt that what we saw, what we witnessed, was on balance a fair and reasonable interpretation of Nazi style role play.”
Myler was asked by Price if he did not think it might have been “highly instructive” to have learned what was being said in German.
He replied: “It might have been.”
When Price asked if he thought this was a step which should have been taken “in fairness” to Mosley, Myler said: “In fairness to Mr Mosley, perhaps, yes. I accept that.”
He rejected the QC’s suggestion that the “failure to find out what was being said in German reflects a complete lack of real interest in standing up your justification for publishing this story”.
Price suggested to him: “From the moment the film arrived in the News of the World offices and the moment somebody saw that there were pictures of sex and S and M, those pictures were going to be published willy nilly.”
After that allegation was also denied by Myler, Price then suggested: “And the justification was just a fig leaf.”
Myler replied: “In this day and age, Mr Price, no editor could justify behaving in that way.”
He said that although he accepted that getting a transcript was “perhaps something that we should have done”, he still did not believe that “in the context of all of the tape of what took place in that flat for five hours, we did not have a reasonable and justified right to publish what we did”.