News of the World accused of gross and indefensible intrusion with Mosley orgy story

The News of the World played “Peeping Tom” when it reported motorsport boss Max Mosley’s encounter with five prostitutes in a “sick Nazi orgy”, the High Court heard today.

At the start of a landmark action, James Price QC said the story which appeared in March with accompanying photos and film on the newspaper’s website was a “gross and indefensible intrusion” on the 68-year-old’s private life.

He told Mr Justice Eady in London it was made substantially worse by the “shocking and entirely false” suggestion that the events depicted involved Mr Mosley – the son of the 1930s Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley – playing a concentration camp commandant and a cowering death camp inmate.

Price told the judge, who is hearing the breach of privacy case without a jury, that he would hear much from the newspaper of Mosley being guilty of “gross sexual depravity” which ordinary right-thinking people would utterly deplore.

“We say this hyperbole is quite absurd as a description of what actually happened.

“It does not come well from the News of the World. The role of the News of the World as Peeping Tom publishing for the amusement of the millions sits uncomfortably with its self-appointed role as arbitrator of the nation’s morals.

“Everyone knows that the News of the World lives by sexual titillation. Everyone knows that the pontificating is just hypocritical. It would be funny if it were not so terribly harmful to the News of the World’s victims.”

Mosley, president of the FIA, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, does not deny that the events occurred in a private flat which he rented in Chelsea, south-west London, but hotly disputes the characterisation of his activities as “Nazi role-play”.

News Group Newspapers is strongly contesting the action, which includes an unprecedented claim in a privacy case for exemplary or punitive damages as well as compensatory damages, and will argue that publication was justified in the public interest.

Price said that the S and M (sadomasochistic) roleplay included a naked Mosley being spanked by one of the women with a whip and a woman being spanked by him with a strap.

Before the publication of the humiliating material, Mosley was not well known to the public and had not courted publicity for himself – still less for his private life, the court heard.

Price said: “This trial is not a forum to debate the evils or otherwise of Sir Oswald Mosley. The only point is that the sins of the father cannot justly be visited on Mr Mosley, who was born at a time when the British Union of Fascists was simply a memory and when Britain was already at war with Nazi Germany.”

Counsel suggested that, given the entire absence of any Nazi aspect to the events, it was the Mosley association, and nothing else, which drove the story.

“If if it had been about Bernie Ecclestone, it would not have been a ‘sick Nazi orgy’.

“A person’s sexual life is a most intimate part of his or her private life,” he added.

“Every ordinary human being expects the privacy of their sexual life to be respected and would be outraged if it was not.

“To peep in on people engaging in sexual activity is disgusting.

“To hide a listening device or hidden camera in someone’s bedroom in order to spy on them having sex violates a basic human taboo.

“There would have to be serious public interest of a very high order to justify doing this.

“This is not merely the proper human reaction of everyone who is not of a disturbed mind. It is of course recognised by the law, the European Court of Human Rights and by the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct.

Price said that Mosley accepted that he had been interested in corporal punishment and S and M since “quite a young age”.

“It’s not a surprise to me or to others who don’t live in an ivory tower or a monastery or, I am sure, to your lordship, that to learn that quite a lot of people, men and women, have a fascinated interest in this sort of thing.”

Counsel said that advertisements for such activity were commonplace, and referred to an occasion when he had to tell his wife she was a little naive when she drew his attention to a classified ad involving “seats caning”, as they needed some chairs mending.

He said: “Grown ups, men and women, are perfectly used to the fact that human tastes in sexual matters are almost infinitely variable and what other people like to do, if it’s not what you like to do yourself, is remarkable.

“To think about what other people, or worse to look at pictures of what other people do, can provoke disgust.”

Any form of sexual activity except the straightforward missionary position between young, nubile and pretty people was apt to provoke an expression of distaste if thought about too closely, the court heard.

Price said: “It is not because it is wrong or immoral, still less because it is disgusting.

“It is because tastes in these matters differ and because disgust can be quite near the surface when thinking about sorts of sexual behaviour which one does not fancy oneself.”

He said that it was an affront to dignity, even to think too closely about what other people did – whether they were young, old, disabled or homosexual – as it was no-one else’s business.

“The News of the World, we say, is out of touch with the instincts of decent British people in this respect.

“I say with confidence that the great mass of British people, of News of the World readers, are tolerant and broadminded.

“They think what people do in private is their own affair so long as it does not involve corrupting children or the young or exploiting vulnerable people by reason of mental incapacity or economic need… there is nothing of that kind here.

“Most people will disapprove of conduct which is dangerous…there is nothing of that kind here.

“Most people probably think S and M behaviour – spanking, bondage, whipping, role play like doctors and nurses, sheikhs and harems, guards and prisoners – is harmless and private and even funny.”

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