EX-FORMULA One boss Max Mosley has lost his European Court of Human Rights bid to force newspapers to warn people before exposing their private lives.
The verdict in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg marks the final stage in Mosley’s campaign for tighter privacy laws following revelations about his sex life in the News of the World.
In 2008, the British High Court awarded him £60,000 (€68,257) damages after ruling there was no justification for a front- page article and pictures about his meeting with five prostitutes in a London flat.
But Mosley pursued the case to the Human Rights Court. His lawyer told a hearing in January that the failure of British law to oblige newspapers to notify their “victims” before exposing their private lives violated the European Human Rights Convention.
The High Court damages award did not restore Mr Mosley’s privacy, said Lord Pannick QC, but “prior notification” would have given him the chance to seek an injunction preventing publication.
Yesterday’s verdict of the seven-judge court declared: “The European Convention on Human Rights does not require media to give prior notice of intended publications to those who feature in them.”
It said in Britain the right to a private life was protected by a system of self-regulation of the press; by access to civil courts to seek damages; and “if individuals were aware of an intended publication” they could seek an interim injunction preventing publication.
In addition, the judges said, a parliamentary inquiry on privacy issues had been held recently with the participation of, among others, Mosley himself. The resulting report had rejected the need for a “pre-notification” requirement.
The judges said no evidence had been produced of any other country which had a “pre-notification” requirement. “Last and not least, the current British system fully corresponded to the resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on media and privacy.”
If there were to be a pre-notification requirement in the law, it would have to allow for an exception if public interest was at stake.
The judges said in Mosley’s case, given the News of the World believed the sexual activities it disclosed had Nazi overtones and were therefore of public interest, the paper could have chosen not to notify him, even if a legal pre-notification requirement had been in place.
The judges raised concerns about censorship prior to publication and restrictive measures which “would have a chilling effect on journalism” and risked breaching rules on freedom of expression.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved