Strasbourg: Former motorsport chief Max Mosley has asked a European court to rule on British media law almost three years after a British tabloid published pictures of him participating in a sado-masochistic orgy.
The 70-year-old Mosley -- who is also the son of 1930s British fascist leader Oswald Mosley -- wants the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights to rule that British media must inform people before making public revelations about their private lives.
“When somebody’s privacy is about to be violated, that person should have the chance to go before a court, rather than it just being media editors that decide whether to destroy that private life or not,” Mosley said after the court hearing.
The former president of Formula One’s governing body -- the International Automobile Federation (FIA) -- has campaigned for privacy laws in Britain since Britain’s News of the World published embarrassing pictures and videos of him early in 2008.
The Sunday newspaper played up Mosley’s parentage when it published lurid photos and video footage on its website of Mosley being spanked by women in costumes, after one of the prostitutes involved secretly filmed the events.
Mosley, who lives in the tiny state of Monaco between France and Italy, won damages against the News of the World in London’s High Court in July 2008 after a judge ruled his privacy was violated. He admitted to having a penchant for sado-masochistic sex. The paper also wrongly claimed that Mosley had taken part in a “sick Nazi orgy”.
Libel laws differ across the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe, of which the Strasbourg rights court is a part. Britain’s are seen as among the most plaintiff-friendly, with the burden of proof on the defendant to demonstrate a defamatory statement was fair comment.
Mosley’s lawyer, Lord Philip Pannick, told reporters that regulations on contacting people before making revelations about them would only affect muck-raking stories.
He noted that some 15 percent of Britain’s adult population reads the weekly News of the World.
The court -- which cannot force member states to comply with its rulings and has expulsion from the Council of Europe as its strongest sanction -- should announce its decision on the case in the months ahead.