FIA chief Max Mosley has won his court action against the News of the World following the newspaper’s revelation that he took part in sadomasochistic orgies with prostitutes.
Mosley admitted in court that he had deceived his wife for decades by regularly paying to take part in S&M sessions – but he argued that this was purely a private matter.
The High Court accepted that the 68-year-old’s privacy had been breached by the story, and by the wide distribution of photos and video of the acts taking place.
The judge, Mr Justice Eady, said: “I accept that such behaviour is viewed by some people with distaste and moral disapproval but, in the light of modern rights-based jurisprudence, that does not provide any justification for the intrusion on the personal privacy of the claimant.”
He also ruled there was no Nazi aspect to Mosley’s enaction of his fantasies – a decision that came as little surprise following the withdrawal from the trial on health grounds of the newspaper’s key witness, one of the women involved in the acts.
But Mosely’s attempt to have the newspaper punished severely with a large financial panalty failed. Instead of the large sum in punitive damages that he had asked for, he was awarded the relatively paltry sum of £60,000.
Despite this, he claimed the verdict as a triumph: “I am delighted with that judgement, which is devastating for the News of the World. It demonstrates that their Nazi lie was completely invented and had no justification.
“It also shows that they had no right to go into private premises and take pictures and film adults engaged in activities which are no one’s business but those of the people concerned. I am very pleased with this result, and I have nothing further to say at the present time.”
News of the World editor Colin Myler unsurprisingly took a different view: “In court, Mr Mosley admitted to enjoying these practices for the past 45 years — a fact of which his wife and children were unaware.
“The judge has ruled that Mr Mosley’s activities did not involve Nazi role-playing as we had reported, but has acknowledged that the News of the World had an honest belief that a Nazi theme was involved during the orgy.
“The newspaper believed that what it published on 30 March 2008 was legitimate and lawful, and moreover the publication was justified by the public interest in exposing Mr Mosley’s serious impropriety.”
The newspaper had argued that publication was justified because of Mosley’s role as FIA president – a position that had seen him demand severe punishment for McLaren in last season’s ‘Spygate’ controversy.
However, the judge ruled there was no public interest justification for the story.
Our view at Brits on Pole? We were calling for Mosley to go long before the News of the World story, and for completely different reasons. His attempts to turn this unpleasant episode into a judgement on the media cannot hide the fact that his own actions and choices have served only to damage his effectiveness as a spokesperson for world motor sport even further. The fact he seems unable to recognise this and understand the consequences is, in itself, sufficient evidence that he lacks the judgement to continue in his present role. He should resign – and resign today, while he can use his court victory as a fig-leaf to disguise his shredded credibility.