Motor racing chief Max Mosley has applied to the European Court of Human Rights in an attempt to reform the UK's privacy laws. He wants editors to be forced to tell people when they are about to publish stories about them.
Mosley won the highest-ever UK privacy payout when the News of the World was ordered to pay £60,000 in damages over a story and video it published detailing an orgy in which Mosley took part.
Mosley has said, though, that the payout is not the right form of redress, and that he should have had the right to try to stop the story from being printed in the first place.
Mosley is the president of the body which governs Formula One car racing. He is the son of Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British fascists in the 1930s and 1940s. The News of the World printed details and published an online video of an orgy which they said had Nazi overtones.
The High Court found that the Nazi link had not been proven and that the publication violated Mosley's privacy. Though there has traditionally been no British right to privacy it has begun to be relied on in courts because of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which became law in the UK through the Human Rights Act.
Article Eight guarantees every citizen the right to respect for their family and private life. It is this Article on which Mosley is basing his European action.
"The starting point for this application is that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides those in the UK with a right to respect for their privacy," said Mosley's lawyer Dominic Crossley of Steeles Law in a statement. "Following the publication that Sunday, the only legal remedy available to Mr Mosley in the UK was to bring a claim for damages i.e. financial compensation."
"The only effective remedy would have been to prevent the publication in the first place by means of an injunction; but because he did not know about the article beforehand, the opportunity of an injunction was not open to him," said Crossley.
Mosley wants the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights to order the UK to force editors to tell subjects of stories what is about to be published. He claims that this is the only way that a right to privacy can be enforceable.
"The current position in the UK is that, although we all have a right to privacy, it is entirely up to the editor of a newspaper whether or not we are able to exercise that right in any effective or meaningful way," said Crossley's statement. "The editor of a newspaper, acting alone, can take a decision to publish material which may ruin a life or destroy a family, safe in the knowledge that even if publication is later held to be unlawful, there will be no significant consequences for him or his employers."
"Without a legal or regulatory duty upon newspapers to notify an individual before the publication of private information about them, the UK has no real or effective protection in place for the right of privacy, something which it is obliged to do under the Human Rights Act," said Crossley. "Whilst we all have a theoretical right to privacy this right can be and is violated before we can do anything about it. Mr Mosley’s experience is testament to this."
Mosley is not seeking any increase in the damages paid to him and says that those damages have been donated to charity.
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