FIA President wins record privacy damages against News Group
Max Mosley today succeeded in his High Court privacy action brought against News Group Newspapers over The News of the World‘s publication of a video and accompanying article which showed intimate scenes of Mr Mosley partaking in S&M activity with 5 dominatrices.
News Group had defended the action on the basis that it was in the public interest to reveal that the activities in which Mr Mosley, an elected FIA official, had participated were Nazi-themed or were criminal and immoral in nature.
Mr Justice Eady rejected these arguments, finding that there was no evidence that the events which occurred in the Chelsea flat between the Claimant and the women had any Nazi element and that the belief to the contrary held by the defendant’s journalists at the time of publication had not been arrived at by any rational analysis. The Judge also rejected the claim that the publication was in the public interest because it exposed any illegal conduct, and held that in the modern legal climate the press were not able to justify the intrusion into an individual’s sex life simply on the basis that some may consider his conduct immoral.
The Court awarded Mr Mosley £60,000, an amount of damages which significantly exceeds any previous award for breach of privacy in the English courts. However, he rejected Mr Mosley’s claim for exemplary damages on the basis that such a claim is not admissible in a privacy action since there is no existing authority to justify an extension to the category of actions for which that remedy can presently be obtained and, indeed, it would fail the tests of necessity and proportionality. Furthermore, although the Judge found the newspaper’s view on public interest had been arrived at in a ‘casual’ and ‘cavalier’ manner he found the evidence was insufficient to establish the states of mind required to award exemplary damages.
Mr Mosley was awarded his costs of the entire claim, despite the Defendant having successfully opposed the injunction application and the claim for exemplary damages.