Max Mosley is an extremely wealthy man, but when he testified to the Levenson Inquiry
today, he was clearly arguing on behalf of those who cannot afford to mount expensive defamation and privacy actions.
Mr Mosley is best known as the one of the biggest names in motor racing, but he testified here that a lot of his work is concerned with road safety, in particular making motor vehicles safer, for both motorists and pedestrians. This work has been largely successful.
Although he has been subjected to gratuitous smears, he was concerned here primarily with the invasion of his privacy. Max Rufus Mosley is the son of the famous/infamous Sir Oswald Mosley
, and this has led him open to smears, insinuation and innuendo of sympathy towards Nazism, even though his is clearly a case of like father extremely unlike son.
Three years ago, he won a court case against the late and unlamented News Of The World
. He had participated in a raucous party with five women who were paid for their services, and apparently enjoyed it. The paper had though attempted to set him up by infiltrating the party and perpetuating a Nazi theme, videoing it covertly.
One curious feature of that scam is that the people at the News Of The World
had put the video on their website but did not copy protect it, as they usually did.
Mosley applied for an emergency injunction, which was heard by Mr Justice Eady, who also heard one of the many libel actions which in the 1990s and early 2000s left Gerry Gable
with egg on his face and a big hole in his bank balance.
It is clear that Mosley brought his action against the News Of The World
more for the public good than for his own sake, something that reflects enormously to his credit.
The campaign to blacken his name went much further than mere newspaper articles; the paper's lawyers distributed the video, including to the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile
, of which he was then President.
The smear story was taken up big time in Germany - obviously because of the Nazi angle - and his German lawyers have been energetic in removing derivative articles from the web, but as Mr Justice Eady said, this was a bit like King Cnut trying to hold back the tide. He has also brought legal actions against Google, who have declined to “doctor” their search engine as a matter of principle.
Max Mosley received £60,000 damages for his successful privacy action, the highest such damages ever awarded by a court in this country.
Fifty or even thirty years ago, the spanking allegations would have been the ruin of Mosley, but unless you are the Archbishop of Westminster, or someone whose sexual habits are in some way relevant to his position - perhaps a politician who is campaigning against "obscenity" - British society is generally now extremely tolerant of what consenting adults do behind closed doors. (If homosexuality is gay
, spanking must be positively ecstatic). The consensus appears to be that it is nobody's business but their own, and that includes the facile gutter press, and those who are so prurient as to read it.
The actress Sienna Miller said she had been subjected not only to persistent harassment by men with cameras but to hacking, including of her e-mail account. She said one of the worse things about this was the breeding of mistrust between her and her friends, and also her family.
She began accusing people of leaking information, so did her mother. Hacking aside, on one occasion, a photograph had been cropped and presented out of context to make it appear that she was drunk, rather than playing with a very sick child at a charity event.
Mega-author JK Rowling was the last witness to be heard today; she did not raise issues of phone hacking but of privacy and defamation, the former being her primary concern.
She said she supported freedom of the press and that there was both heroic journalism, and the sort discussed here, which included illegal activity. When her Harry Potter books were first published, she benefited from press coverage, but was driven out of her first house, which she had bought with advances from her novels. She had been doorstepped, journalists had been sitting outside in cars, etc.
She took action through both the Press Complaints Commission and the civil courts. Her first concern was the privacy of her children. When her first book was published, she was a single (divorced) mother of a young daughter, and once turned down an interview with a magazine because the journalist wanted to take a photograph of her sitting down at her broken down typewriter with her daughter sitting on her knee. On one occasion, she found a letter from a journalist in her daughter's school bag, the girl was then five years old.
Miss Rowling was also concerned about he address being leaked including details about some of the security precautions she had taken because like many people in the public eye, she had at times been targeted by unbalanced individuals. On the commercial side, copies of one of her Harry Potter books were stolen from the printer. The hearings will continue Monday with testimony from among others the singer Charlotte Church and former murder suspect Chris Jefferies