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News In Focus

More cases predicted following Mosley win

25 July 2008

Media lawyers have predicted an increase in the number of actions for breach of privacy following Max Mosley's victory yesterday against the News of the World.

The Formula 1 boss was awarded £60,000 damages after Mr Justice Eady in the High Court in London ruled there was "no public interest or other justification" for the clandestine recording by the paper of Mr Mosley taking part in a sado-masochistic sex orgy with five prostitutes, publishing details with still photographs, or posting video extracts on its website.

The judge ruled that there was no evidence to support the paper's claims that the orgies had Nazi themes or mocked victims of the Holocaust. Mr Mosley could expect privacy in relation to sexual activities, albeit unconventional, between consenting adults on private property.

He added that there was "nothing 'landmark' about this decision" - it was simply the application of recently developed but established principles to unusual facts. His ruling was not intended to deter "serious" investigative journalism into crime or wrongdoing where the public interest was more genuinely engaged.

Mr Mosley, who brought his action under the European Convention right to respect for private and family life rather than as an action of defamation, said he was very pleased with the result, which showed that the News of the World had no right to go into private premises and film activities that were people's own business.

However editor Colin Myler claimed the press would be "less free" as a result of the decision.

Media lawyers who commented following the ruling have generally agreed that it is likely to result in more cases, as it will be difficult to justify publishing matters touching on a person's private life as in the public interest.

And although Mr Mosley failed in his attempt to win punitive as opposed to compensatory damages, his award is the largest yet in a British privacy case.