Mosley beats the World! Max Mosley wins record damages in privacy case

August 2008

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Mosley beats the World! Max Mosley wins record damages in privacy case: Mosley v News Group Newspapers Ltd (2008) EWHC 1777 (QB)

From the IPKat

Max Mosely, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) since 1993 and a trustee of its charitable arm, the FIA Foundation, objected to the publication of an article in the News of the World newspaper. This article, headed ‘F1 BOSS HAS SICK NAZI ORGY WITH 5 HOOKERS’, was billed as an exclusive and ran under the subheading “Son of Hitler loving fascist in sex shame”. The article in question concerned an event, described as a party by Mosley and as an orgy by the newspaper. The text was accompanied by images taken from clandestine video footage and a concealed camera at the event itself. A sequel, published the following month under the banner “EXCLUSIVE: MOSLEY HOOKER TELLS ALL: MY NAZI ORGY WITH F1 BOSS”, was mainly a purported interview with one of the women who participated in the event, who had filmed it with a camera supplied by the newspaper and concealed in her brassiere.

Mosley alleged breach of his of privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), seeking exemplary damages. He argued that the content of the published material was inherently private in nature and that there had existed a pre-existing relationship of confidentiality between the participants. The public display of this private event was thus unlawful.

Eady J, awarding a new UK record sum of £60,000 damages, agreed. In his 236-paragraph judgment he said as follows:

  • The clandestine recording of sexual activity on private property was a proper subject-matter for the engagement of Article 8 of the ECHR.
  • The woman with the concealed camera had committed an “old fashioned breach of confidence” as well as a violation of Article 8 of the ECHR.
  • Mosley had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to his sexual activities, albeit unconventional, carried on between consenting adults on private property.
  • There was no evidence that the event was intended to be an enactment of Nazi behaviour or adoption of any of its attitudes; nor indeed was it so. There was some bondage, beating and domination which seemed to be typical of sado-masochistic (S and 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 indeed for the placing of the video extracts on the News of the World website.
  • The mere fact that this behaviour was viewed by some people with distaste and moral disapproval gave no justification for the intrusion on Mosley’s personal privacy in the light of modern rights-based jurisprudence.
  • Exemplary damages were not available in a claim for infringement of privacy.

The full article can be seen at

Perhaps unsurprisingly the UK’s national press came out against the judgment. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton said the decision was a ‘dangerous precedent’ and that the first major victim was ‘free speech’ saying ‘unspeakable and indecent behaviour, whether in public or private, is no longer significant under this ruling’ (News of the World, 27 July 2008). Max Mosely has confirmed he will bring a defamation action against the newspaper.

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