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Max Mosley wins sex privacy case

July 24, 2008 16:57 IST

Motor racing boss Max Mosley won damages in the High Court on Thursday when a judge ruled his privacy was violated after The News of the World published a story about his part in a sado-masochistic orgy.

Mosley, president of Formula One's governing body and son of Britain's 1930s Fascist leader Oswald Mosley, did not deny taking part in a German-themed sex session with prostitutes, but said his privacy was violated by the newspaper's reporting.

Justice David Eady sided with Mosley, saying the tabloid Sunday newspaper was not justified in publishing the story and accompanying photographs despite Mosley's public profile and claims that it was in the public interest.

In the story, published earlier this year, the newspaper said the orgy involved Nazi-style role-play, something Mosley denied and the newspaper failed to back up in court.

"The claimant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to sexual activities (albeit unconventional) carried on between consenting adults on private property," Justice Eady wrote in his judgment.

"I found that there was no evidence that the gathering on 28 March, 2008 was intended to be an enactment of Nazi behaviour or adoption of any of its attitudes. Nor was it in fact."

The judge awarded Mosley 60,000 pounds in damages and said the newspaper should pay his costs, estimated at 450,000 pounds.

Mosley, 68, brought the case earlier this month, saying the newspaper, which published pictures showing the Formula One boss being spanked by women dressed as prison guards, was responsible for a "gross and indefensible intrusion of his private life".

The News of the World said the sex session was an example of "true depravity" not just harmless "hanky spanky".

Giving evidence during the case, Mosley confessed to having had a penchant for sado-masochism from an early age, but dismissed any suggestion of a Nazi fetish or that there were any Nazi connotations. He said he could think of few things more unerotic given his family history.

Mosley welcomed the judge's ruling, saying: "This shows that they have no right to go into private premises and take pictures and films of adults engaged in activities that are no one's business but those of the people concerned."

The newspaper's case rested heavily on the evidence of a star witness, a prostitute married to a former British MI5 agent, who filmed the sex session secretly and was expected to claim that Mosley had explicitly requested a Nazi-themed orgy.

However, she failed to appear in court to give evidence and the other four prostitutes involved denied any Nazi connotation.

"They over-larded the story, and if you over-lard the story and get it wrong... you've got a real problem," privacy lawyer Rod Dadak told the BBC.

After the story emerged, Mosley faced pressure to quit his job but held on after winning a confidence vote last month at an extraordinary general assembly of the International Automobile Federation, Formula One's governing body.

In court, Mosley revealed that his wife of 48 years had had no idea about his sado-masochistic fetish. He said he had frequently paid up to 2,500 pounds a time to have prostitutes beat, whip and humiliate him.

The News of the World appeared unrepentant after the ruling, issuing a statement about Mosley's "depraved" behaviour.

"We are delighted that the judge has acknowledged that Mr Mosley is largely the author of his own misfortune.

"Taking part in depraved and brutal S&M orgies on a regular basis does not in our opinion constitute the fit and proper behaviour to be expected of someone in his hugely influential position," the newspaper said.

© Copyright 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
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