FIA president Max Mosley has gone before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport to give evidence related to its inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel.
Mosley offered to give evidence following the case he brought against British tabloid The New of the World
for breach of privacy, after it reported that he had been involved in Nazi-themed sex orgy with a number of prostitutes.
Following a court hearing, it was found that there was no evidence to back the 'papers claims of a Nazi theme and awarded Mosley £60,000 in damages for the invasion into his private life.
Mosley and his legal team then submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to strengthen UK privacy laws, with the FIA boss going before the Committee to give evidence to back his application.
“There is currently a major loophole in UK privacy law,” Mosley wrote in his submission to the Select Committee. “If an editor wishes to publish an item which he knows, or suspects, is an illegal invasion of privacy, it is in his interest to keep his intention secret from his intended victim, so that by the time the victim finds out, it's too late to do anything.
“This only happens when the newspaper knows publication is illegal and would be stopped if the victim could go before a judge. In my case it was admitted by the editor of the News of the World
that he kept the story secret (going to such lengths as to keep the information from his own staff and publishing a different, unrelated story in the first edition of his paper) because he feared I would seek and obtain an injunction to protect my privacy.
“Once the story is published, the editor knows that if the victim sues, the result will be more publicity, thus a further invasion of privacy, while the damages received (which cannot be an effective remedy in privacy cases in any event), will be less than the difference between the costs recovered from the newspaper and the bill from the victim's lawyers. The result is that the victim will, quite rightly in most cases, be advised of these consequences and not sue. The victim is thus left with no remedy, while the editor suffers no adverse consequences for his unlawful decision to publish.”
In order to close that loophole, Mosley has called for a change in the law which would force editors to give 'notice of publication' to a person if it suspects the topic is something which that person would wish to remain private – which would give the opportunity for the 'victim' to take the case before a judge to decide whether or not the story should be published.
“It is quite obvious that an independent judge is better placed to carry out this exercise than an editor, who is inevitably more interested in selling his newspaper than protecting the rights of an individual,” Mosley continued. “In the unlikely event that the story would be lost if prior notice were given, the newspaper itself could apply ex parte
to a judge for permission to publish without notice. The essential safeguard is that a judge, not an editor, should decide if it is lawful to publish.