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F1 chief wins record sum from orgy case

  • Story Highlights
  • F1 chief Max Mosley wins privacy case against British tabloid
  • Mosley awarded record $120,000 in damages by judge
  • Mosley admitted S&M session but denied Nazi overtones
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By CNN's Glen Scanlon
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LONDON, England -- Formula One chief Max Mosley has been awarded a record $120,000 after winning his privacy case against a tabloid newspaper over a story alleging he attended a five-hour sex session involving Nazi role play.

FIA president Max Mosley speaks to the media after winning his privacy case against the News of the World.

FIA president Max Mosley speaks to the media after winning his privacy case against the News of the World.

The 68-year-old, was awarded £60,000 ($120,000) against the News of the World, which printed photographs of the session and posted video on its Web site.

The court also ordered the newspaper to pay Mosley's legal costs, which were estimated at £450,000, ($900,000) in addition to its own costs, estimated at £400,000 ($800,000).

Niri Shan, head of media at law firm Taylor Wessing, said the award was substantially higher than in past cases and it was a blow for media freedom.

Mosley, who is president of Formula One's governing body -- the FIA -- and the son of the late British fascist politician Oswald Mosley, had admitted taking part in a sado-masochistic orgy but said he abhorred the idea of Nazi sex fantasies.

He told the court his life had been devastated by the claims published in March and the secretly-filmed footage, labeled "truly grotesque and depraved" by the newspaper, which attracted at least 3.5 million hits. Video Watch more on Mosley's victory »

"(The ruling exposed) the Nazi lie upon which the News of the World sought to justify their disgraceful intrusion into my private life," Mosley said in a statement after the decision.

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"I hope my case will help deter newspapers in the UK from pursuing this type of invasive and salacious journalism."

High Court judge David Eady said there was no evidence that Mosley's orgy was intended to reenact Nazi behavior and there was no public interest or other justification for the newspaper's clandestine recording of it.

"Of course, I accept that such behavior 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 said, according to the British Press Association.

News of the World editor Colin Myler said he believed the story was one of "legitimate public interest and one that I believe was legitimately published," PA reported.

Myler said it was "absolutely not true" that the newspaper had fabricated the Nazi aspect.

He told reporters outside the court that the judgment was more evidence of a "creeping law of privacy."

"Unfortunately, our press is less free today after another judgment based on privacy laws emanating from Europe," Myler said.

"How those very general laws should work in practice has never been debated in the UK parliament. English judges are left to apply those laws to individual cases here using guidance from judges in Strasbourg who are unfriendly to freedom of expression. The result is that our media are being strangled by stealth.

"That is why the News of the World will remain committed to fighting for its readers' right to know," Myler said.

The newspaper's case was dealt a fatal blow when their main witness, one of the women involved in the orgy, withdrew from testifying.

Mosley, on the other hand, took the stand and gave a very frank account of the orgy, which was backed up by the other women involved.

Shan said Mosley's victory was in line with other cases involving celebrities including Naomi Campbell, JK Rowling and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones.

The award was higher due to the "aggravating circumstances," notably how the newspaper had used video of the orgy on its Web site and pictures in the print edition, Shan said.

However, he said the main point out of the decision was that public figures' sex lives were out of bounds unless a hypocritical element could be proved. For example, a politician who was campaigning on a moral platform while violating those morals in his private life.

Shan said even this had now become a grey area, with newspapers having to make sure they had a very robust defense.

He believed the decision was another blow for media freedom, and that stories of this type would not be published in the future.

Shan said Mosley set out to prove there was no Nazi element to the orgy, which he had succeeded in doing, but queried the wisdom of taking the privacy case.


"Say a million people saw the story originally. How many people have read about it since (Mosley took the court action)?"

Mosley is also suing the tabloid for defamation and violation of privacy in France (international editions of the newspaper are sold there), but the case is yet to be heard.

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