I was delighted that Formula One boss, Max Mosley, won his case against the News of the World who paid one of his prostitutes to secretly film one of their orgies. The paper ran the headline "F1 boss has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers". Mosley sued the paper for invasion of privacy. The paper argued the exposé was in the public interest.
Mosley had hired 5 prostitutes for a sadomasochistic orgy. But the court found there was no evidence for the allegation of Nazi undertones. More importantly it ruled that the public interest was not served by this severe invasion of the man's private life.
The reason I'm delighted is that this is a slap in the face to the cheap, sordid, kiss and tell sleaze that has become the stock in trade of British tabloids.
I watched John Snow interview a legal guy from the News of the World. The guy from the paper was seething at this judgement. It was just so beautitful and satisfying to see him frothing at the mouth. He kept on repeating that the public ought to know about Mosley's "Dark Secret Vice". Really? Snow asked that, since the court found that there were no Nazi overtones, why should the public know about this mans sex life? Again, the answer was, when it comes to the "rich, the influential, or the powerful" we ought to know if they have a "Dark Secret Vice". Well, snow asked, if we ought to know about the sex life of the rich and influential, should we know what the editor of the News of the World gets up to? Pause. Or it's senior legals? Pause, and then "the editor perhaps, but not me" (Ooops, I hope that hooker last night wasn't filming). You could hear the scratches from the bottom of the barrel.
The News of the World guy went on then to complain about the curtailment of freedom of speech creeping into Britain from Strasbourg. He was referring to the protection of privacy which is enshrined in the European convention on Human rights, which Britain signed in 1998. The convention doesn't provide an absolute right to privacy, but, basically, specifies that privacy should be protected unless there are genuine public interest concerns.
Let's be clear: freedom of speech is vital, and the function of the press in investigating matters of public interest is essential to democracy. But the interesting thing here is that the British court looked at the various provisions, took into account the European convention and made a judgement that is both fair and sensible. And the court explicitly stated that it believes its ruling will not curb the power of the press to conduct its work in matters of genuine public interest.
All said, a sound ruling. And just so great to see the vile, despicable, and debased rubbish that is the British tabloid, getting what it deserves: a whipping.