Max Mosley has refused to take Tuesday's privacy ruling lying down, warning newspaper editors that 'it's not finished yet' and arguing that 'there's a gap in the law which should have been closed' – and 'one day' it may be.
Having taken his case for stronger UK and European privacy laws all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in an effort to bring about a change that would have legally required newspapers to forewarn the subjects of their stories of what they were about to publish, Mosley's challenge was dismissed on the grounds that such an overhaul would have stifled the media's 'right of freedom of expression' [see separate story – click here
Three years ago, Sunday red-top the News of the World
published a salacious front page exposé
detailing the then FIA President's sado-masochistic sex sessions with five prostitutes in an underground London apartment – for which he was awarded £60,000 in damages by London's High Court, which deemed that there was no justification for such a flagrant and unwarranted invasion of his privacy.
Whilst recognising that the private lives of famous people have become 'a highly lucrative commodity' in the media – 'generally for the purposes of entertainment rather than education' – the European Court of Human Rights, however, concluded that 'the European Convention on Human Rights does not require media to give prior notice of intended publications to those who feature in them'.
The judgement added that 'the current UK system fully corresponds to the resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on media and privacy' – albeit seeking to stress the very clear line between matters that are in the public interest and those that are merely of interest to the public.
Reasoning that 'any pre-notification requirement would only be as strong [a deterrent] as the sanctions imposed for failing to observe it', the court added that just such an amendment to the legislation would have risked straying into the realms of censorship and may have engendered 'a chilling effect on journalism which would be felt in the spheres of political and investigative reporting' – areas that currently benefit from 'a high level of protection under the [Human Rights] Convention'.
In January's High Court hearing into Mosley's case, the British Government had stressed that the current regulations strike a good balance between the rights to 'private life' and 'freedom of expression' – as guaranteed respectively under Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – and following this week's ruling, the Ministry of Justice professed itself satisfied that sense had prevailed.
“We are pleased with the judgement in this case and believe the court has made the right decision,” a spokesman for the department is quoted as having said by the Daily Mail
. “The Government recognises the importance of finding the right balance between individual rights to privacy on the one hand, with rights to freedom of expression and transparency of official information on the other.”
“The issue at stake here was not the sex lives of celebrities,” added Index on Censorship chief executive John Kampfner. “Serious investigative journalism would have suffered. We are pleased that the court acknowledged that Mr. Mosley's move would have inflicted a significant chilling effect on the media.”