JULY 24, 2008
No Nazi party says judge, just straight S&M
Max Mosley has won his privacy action against the News of the World newspaper for printing pictures and publishing videos of a five-hour sadomasochistic sex sessions with prostitutes in a cellar in Chelsea. Mosley was not successful in seeking punitive damages but was given an award of $120,000 and the News of the World was ordered to pay his costs. In his judgment Mr Justice Eady said that he felt that Mosley had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in relation to his sexual activities no matter how "unconventional" these may be. He said that he had found no evidence of Nazi themes and said that the revelations had ruined Mosley's life.
"I found that there was no evidence that the gathering on March 28 2008 was intended to be an enactment of Nazi behaviour or adoption of any of its attitudes. Nor was it in fact. I see no genuine basis at all for the suggestion that the participants mocked the victims of the Holocaust," Eady said. "There was bondage, beating and domination which seem 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 for 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 that does not provide any justification for the intrusion on the personal privacy of the claimant.
"It has to be recognised that no amount of damages can fully compensate the claimant for the damage done. He is hardly exaggerating when he says that his life was ruined."
Mosley says that "This judgment has nailed the Nazi lie upon which the News of the World sought to justify their disgraceful intrusion into my private life. By law we are all entitled to have our privacy respected. The News of the World invaded my privacy, dreamt-up the most offensive headline possible, and decided that I should not be contacted before publication to prevent me asking the court for the injunction I would have been entitled to. They and their lawyers have then conducted this case so as to cause maximum embarrassment in the hope that I would be discouraged from continuing. I needed a strong judgment to make it absolutely clear that what the News of the World did was wrong. Obtaining that in the full glare of the media has been extremely difficult but I am delighted that we have achieved what we set out to do. I hope my case will help deter newspapers in the UK from pursuing this type of invasive and salacious journalism. I have learnt first hand how devastating an invasion of privacy can be and how readily papers like the News of the World will destroy lives in the knowledge that few of their victims will dare sue them. I want to encourage a change in that practice. As I promised at the outset, the damages will go to the FIA Foundation to further their work for road safety and the environment. Finally, I would like to thank all those who have supported me during this difficult
Mosley has thus achieved what he set out to do. This is a decision which could have profound implications on British laws and it may be that the matter will go to appeal. There is little doubt that the News of the World has little to be proud of and has not come out of the affair well, but then the newspaper has never had a good reputation.
The other element that is important to consider is that while Mosley has the right to do what he likes in his private life (so long as it is legal), there is a school of thought that once these activities were exposed it was his duty to resign to protect the FIA because of the embarrassment that was caused for the federation and for the Formula 1 world. There is nothing wrong with Mosley then fighting for his rights as a private individual, but it should not have been a battle fought while he remained in the office of the FIA President.
The FIA member clubs voted to keep Mosley because of the need for stability in the sport. When that decision was made the damage had already been done to the federation and to F1 and some felt that getting rid of Mosley would add to the damage. He committed himself to standing down in October 2009 and we will now have to wait to see if he keeps to that pledge.
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