Formula 1 News

Ex-FIA boss Mosley wins French case over orgy photos

The court ruled Britain's News of the World tabloid had violated the privacy of former world motorsport chief.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

PARIS, Nov 8, 2011 (AFP) - A French court ruled Tuesday that Britain's News of the World tabloid had violated the privacy of former world motorsport chief Max Mosley when it published photographs of him in a sadomasochistic orgy.

The court fined Rupert Murdoch's News Group, which published the now-defunct News of the World, 10,000 euros ($13,800) and ordered it to pay 7,000 euros in damages for violating Mosley's privacy, but said there was no defamation.

It also ordered News Group, a British subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corp, to pay 15,000 euros in court costs.

Mosley sued in France, where 672 copies of the newspaper had been distributed and where privacy laws are strict, seeking 200,000 euros in damages for defamation and violating his private life.

Mosley, 71, previously won a case in a British court against News Group after the News of the World published a front-page story in March 2008 entitled "F1 boss has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers."

The British tabloid story labelled Mosley "a sadomasochistic sex pervert" and posted a video of the episode, secretly recorded by one of the participants, on its website.

Mosley, whose father led the British fascist party in the 1930s, has acknowledged paying five women for sex, but said the event depicted in the paper was a prison fantasy and challenged the claim that the episode was Nazi-themed.

The British court awarded him 60,000 pounds (69,000 euros/$96,000) in damages.

Mosley's lawyer Philippe Ouakrat said the French penalty was "relatively heavy".

The court cleared the reporter who wrote the article, Neville Thurlbeck, of responsibility, saying he had not "personally participated" in distributing the article in France.

"It cannot be seriously maintained that the periodical, which is part of one of the biggest media groups in the world... was ignorant of the laws and applicable penalties" for publishing the photographs in France, the court said in its ruling.

Privacy rights can be set aside in the public interest, the court said, but that was not the case here.

"The publication of photographs revealing sexual practices between consenting adults in a private place, whether or not they have Nazi connotations, does not answer the requirement... of being necessary information in a democratic society."

News Group's lawyer Jean-Frederic Gaultier had argued during the trial that it was inappropriate for a French court to be hearing the case, as a British court had already ruled on the matter and Mosley had "already been compensated for his global injury".

The European Court of Human Rights in May dismissed a case brought by Mosley seeking to impose press curbs after the scandal.

He took the case to the Strasbourg-based court arguing that British law had failed to protect his private life and sought a legal change that would force newspapers to warn people before exposing their private lives.

Some had pressured Mosley to step down as president of FIA, the governing body of world motorsport, following the scandal.

But he stayed on until being replaced by Jean Todt of France in October 2009 after heading FIA for 16 years.

The News of the World was shut down in July after it was engulfed in a scandal over phone hacking, including allegations about hacking the phone of a murdered teenage girl.

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