Mosley v News Group Newspapers Ltd (No 1)

Reference: [2008] EWHC 687 (QB)

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Eady J

Date of judgment: 9 Apr 2008

Summary: Privacy - Injunction - Footage of sexual activities - Public interest - Public domain

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Appearances: James Price QC - Leading Counsel (Claimant)  David Sherborne (Claimant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Steeles Law for M; Farrer & Co for NGN

Facts

M, the President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of motor sport worldwide, was filmed engaging in sexual activities with five prostitutes in the basement of a private flat. An edited version of the footage was made available on NGN’s website in connection with a News of the World article entitled ‘F1 boss has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers’. The footage was viewed more than 1.4 million times. M accepted that the events shown occurred but claimed that their disclosure infringed his right to privacy. He also denied any Nazi element. NGN voluntarily removed the footage from their website and undertook not to show it again on less than 24 hours notice to M. Such notice was given several days later. M sought an interim injunction to prevent the footage from being re-shown before trial.

Issue

(1) Whether there was any public interest in NGN showing the footage;
(2) Whether the footage had been so widely viewed that it had lost its privacy to the extent that there was nothing left for the law to protect.

Held

Declining the application:
(1) Given the original coverage in the News of the World, there was no legitimate element of public interest which would be served by the additional disclosure of the edited footage, at this stage, on the website. The footage did not serve to correct any misleading statement as it did not show convincingly that his denial that there was a Nazi element to the activities was false. If that is what NGN wished to achieve then they could do so without displaying the footage.
(2) However, the material was so widely accessible that an order in the terms sought would have made very little practical difference. There was no point barring NGN from showing what was already available.

Comment

Although the judge was largely dismissive of the Defendant’s public interest arguments, he held that the availability of the video to anyone searching the internet for it rendered the injunction sought pointless; “the dam has effectively burst.” Contrast this with the position in Douglas v Hello! (No 5), where an injunction was granted in circumstances where the pictures complained of had been published to hundreds of thousands but where they were no longer easily accessible to members of the public who had not purchased the Defendant’s magazine.