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May 24, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:19am

Max Mosley: Impress funder and press reform campaigner dies aged 81

By Charlotte Tobitt

Former F1 boss Max Mosley, who began a crusade against the press in 2008 when the News of the World wrongly accused him of taking part in a “sick Nazi orgy”, has died aged 81.

The news of Mosley’s death was broken by ex-F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone who said: “He died last night. He was like family to me. We were like brothers. I am pleased in a way because he suffered for too long.”

Mosley served as president of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of F1, from 1993 to 2009.

The son of fascist leader Oswald, he has funded state-approved press regulator Impress through his family charity since it was established in 2016.

He first agreed to fund Impress through the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust, which is named after his eldest son who died of a suspected heroin overdose in 2009, to the tune of £3.8m over four years.

In 2018 he agreed to provide a further £3m to sustain the regulator until at least 2022.

In a comment piece written for Press Gazette two years earlier, Mosley said that “if necessary” his family’s support for Impress could continue until 2026.

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He wrote: “We have supported Impress because there is a desperate need for a regulator backed by Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. Without it, nothing will change. Six times since World War 2, the major newspapers have promised reform in response to public anger. Each time they have reneged as soon as the furore died down.”

Mosley won £60,000 in damages from the News of the World after it published photos and footage of him taking part in a sex orgy after Mr Justice Eady said there was no evidence it was Nazi-themed.

The judge said Mosley had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to his sexual activities, adding: “He is hardly exaggerating when he says that his life was ruined.”

Mosley later took the battle to Google to try to force the tech giant to remove all photos from the orgy from its platform. The dispute was eventually settled with undisclosed terms.

He also attempted a European Court of Human Rights bid to force newspapers to warn people before publishing any details of their private lives, but lost as judges said press self-regulation, civil court proceedings and interim injunctions were all available in the UK already.

Mosley has expressed support for campaign group Hacked Off, established in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. He also donated at least £500,000 to fellow Hacked Off supporter and former Labour MP Tom Watson.

In 2018 Mosley threatened to use data protection laws to “gag” newspapers from reporting his involvement in a sex orgy years ago and his funding links to Impress.

Writing in Press Gazette, he said: “Storing and repeatedly publishing false information, such as the claim that I control Impress, together with information that has been ruled to be not in the public interest, like the News of the World story, are precisely the sort of abuses the Data Protection Act is there to prevent.”

The Daily Mail said the legal action was a “chilling attack on press freedom” while the Times used a leader column to say that the Data Protection Act was “not passed to muzzle the press”.

The Daily Mail and Channel 4 News then uncovered a “racist” UK political pamphlet from 1961 which bore his name as a publisher. He was forced to denying perjuring himself during the News of the World trial when he denied the leaflet existed.

Labour said it would stop accepting donations from Mosley, following the revelations about the campaign leaflet which linked non-white immigrants with diseases, and a handful of Impress-regulated publishers considered whether to leave the regulator because of its ties to him.

Last year, Mosley lost a bid to sue the Daily Mail after claiming it had “cynically and maliciously” reported “bogus concerns” to the Crown Prosecution Service that he may have committed perjury in 2008.

Mr Justice Nicklin struck out Mosley’s claim, saying he had given “no reasonable grounds for bringing his claim for malicious prosecution” and that it was “clear… that his real complaint is about the reputational harm caused by publication of the articles”.

“It was not the submission of the ‘dossier’ to the CPS that caused the reputational damage of which the claimant complains, it was publication of the articles,” he said.

Among those to voice their thoughts about Mosley on Twitter following news of his death was investigative journalist John Sweeney who said: “Max Mosley has died. A terrible start to life, he was son and heir to fascism of father Oswald, he got caught by the News of the World in a spanking orgy. This made a proper man out of him. He fought Rupert Murdoch’s machine and bankrolled Hacked Off. A sinner turned saint.”

The Sun’s news story described Mosley as an “enemy of the free press” while the Telegraph labelled him an “anti-press campaigner”.

Picture: Channel 4 News/Screenshot

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