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European Court rules against Max Mosley

Categories: McKennitt v. Ash +
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The European Court today denied Max Mosley’s application to force British newspapers to notify people before printing stories about their private lives. Mosley has always argued that winning damages from newspapers was, and is, not enough in cases such as his, because – whether true or not – once the story is out it cannot be un-published, and will stay in the public’s mind (or perhaps their nightmares) for ever. Mosley felt that he, and others like him, should have been given a chance to apply for a pre-publication injunction from the courts.

The European Court did not agree, but argued that a pre-notification system would have “a chilling effect” on press freedom, and that there are significant doubts as to how effective such a system would be. “The court is of the view that article 8 [right to privacy] does not require a legally binding pre-notification requirement. Accordingly, the court concludes that there has been no violation of article 8 of the convention by the absence of such a requirement in domestic law”.

It should be pointed out, though, that in 99 cases out of a hundred newspapers do contact people before publication anyway; it is the exceptional cases that Mosley was concerned about. The Court’s ruling marks the end of Mosley’s campaign to have the law changed in this respect. This, taken together with the fact that the hitherto anonymous celebrities who have taken out super-injunctions are being exposed on Twitter, leaves the debate around privacy legislation more in a state of flux than it’s ever been. More to come.

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