News of the World and lawyers face French criminal action

Press Gazette understands that Max Mosley is pressing on with criminal privacy and defamation actions in France against the News of the World and against the paper’s lawyers – Farrer and Co.

Press Gazette understands that chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck is being investigated by a French judge for defamation and Farrer & Co are being investigated for breach of privacy.

In 2008 Mosley won a landmark privacy action against the News of the World after it published photographs and video of him involved in an orgy with five dominatrices.

The threat of criminal proceedings exists in France because foreign copies of the News of the World would have been published in that jurisdiction as well as the online version.

Press Gazette understands that Farrer & Co are being investigated for breach of privacy because they sent a copy of the News of the World edition containing the Mosley revelations to the president of the Senate of the FIA based in France. Mosley was formerly president of the FIA, the Formula One governing body.

Under the French penal code the maximum theoretical penalty for breach of privacy and defamation is a jail sentence. But Press Gazette understands that jail is extremely unlikely and that a fine is the most likely penalty, if one is imposed .

News International and Farrer and Co both declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

But one source familiar with the situation told Press Gazette: ‘Suing through the French courts over a freedom of expression matter such as this is way for very wealthy individuals to play the system. The action against Farrer is just farcical.”

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