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Formula One boss wins privacy case

Max Mosley won a landmark case in London's High Court when a judge ruled his privacy was violated by a British tabloid newspaper.

Max Mosley arriving at the High Court, London.
Max Mosley arriving at the High Court, London.

LONDON // The motor racing boss Max Mosley won a landmark case in London's High Court on Thursday when a judge ruled that his privacy was violated by The News of the World, when it published a story about his part in sado-masochistic activities. Mr Mosley, president of Formula One's governing body and son of the British 1930s Fascist leader Oswald Mosley, did not deny taking part in German-themed sex sessions with prostitutes, but said his privacy was infringed by the newspaper's reporting.

Mr Justice Eady sided with Mr Mosley, saying the tabloid Sunday newspaper was not justified in publishing a story and accompanying photographs despite Mr Mosley's public profile. He awarded Mr Mosley £60,000 (Dh440,000) in damages. Mr Mosley, 68, brought the case earlier this month, saying the newspaper, which published pictures showing the Formula One boss being flogged by women dressed as prison guards, was responsible for a "gross and indefensible intrusion of his private life".

The News of the World had claimed Mr Mosley was involved in Nazi-style role-playing and that this was an example of "true depravity" not just harmless "hanky spanky". Giving evidence during the case, Mr Mosley confessed to having had a penchant for sado-masochism from an early age, but dismissed any suggestion of a Nazi fetish. He said he could think of few things less appealing. Justice Eady's decision is likely to be closely watched by newspaper publishers and high-profile figures worldwide as it sets a major precedent on media privacy violation.

Britain's tabloid newspapers have a reputation for running titillating stories about celebrities and sports stars, some of whom have complained in the past about the intrusiveness of reporters and photographers. The News of the World's story, published in March this year, concentrated on a suggestion that Mr Mosley was engaged in Nazi role-play with prostitutes dressed in German military uniforms.

But the newspaper's star witness, a prostitute married to a former British MI5 agent, failed to appear to give evidence. She had been expected to back up the Nazi claims. The other four prostitutes involved in the session denied any Nazi element. After the story emerged, Mr Mosley faced massive pressure to leave his job but held on after winning a confidence vote at an extraordinary general assembly of the International Automobile Federation, Formula One's governing body.

In court, Mr Mosley revealed that his wife of 48 years had no idea about his sado-masochistic fetish. He said he had frequently paid up to £2,500 a time to be beaten by prostitutes. *Reuters