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  1. Media Law
January 11, 2011

Mosley: Prior notification will not harm newspapers

By Alex Sharp

A legal ruling forcing journalists to notify people in advance of stories which breach their privacy would not harm the workings of the press, Max Mosley claimed today.

The ex-Formula One boss, who won £60,000 damages from the News of the World after it breached his privacy by publishing details of his sex life, is attempting to force media in the UK to adopt ‘prior notification’as a standard practice.

Lawyers representing Mosley will appear at the European Court of Human Rights today arguing that UK law needs to be changed so individuals have the right to argue their case before a judge in advance of publication and seek injunctions.

“It’s really a very simple thing that if a newspaper is going to write something about your private life, or something you might reasonably wish to keep reasonably private, that they should tell you beforehand,’Mosley told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning.

Mosley said it was a “great fallacy” that his proposal could hamper press freedom.

“The fact of the matter is, in 99 cases out of 100, if they are going to write something about someone of any real interest they will approach the person.

“What we are talking about here is cases where they don’t come to you; they even perhaps publish a spoof first edition, because they know if they did you would be able to get a super injunction.

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“I think press freedom is absolutely vital and it has to be protected at all costs.

“It’s the basis of a modern democracy – but that’s a very different thing from newspapers concealing from you that they are going to publish something which they know is illegal and then doing it, knowing that once they publish it you can’t put it right, there is no real remedy.

“It’s a very, very narrow point we are in Strasbourg on. It’s the point of prior notification in those sorts of cases.”

Mosley said a judge would never award an injunction if there was a public interest element in what the newspaper wants to publish and that a ruling in his favour would not solely help the rich and powerful.

“If we get the modification I want it will be the reverse because at the moment an ordinary person has to get a solicitor who will then find a specialist solicitor who will actually act,” he said.

“That is very difficult to do in a very short space of time.

“But if you’ve got prior notification the whole thing is done properly and you’ve got an opportunity even if you don’t happen to have a solicitor at your beck and call.”

According to Mosley’s representatives, the UK is failing its obligation to correctly apply Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and protect privacy.

Article 8 states: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”.

Mosley’s submission to the European Court is an attempt to gain a ruling forcing the UK to more stringently enforce Article 8 through a prior notification law.

A ruling from Strasbourg is not expected for several months.

Caroline Kean, a partner at law firm Wiggin, told Press Gazette earlier this month that Mosley’s proposal was a direct threat to investigative journalism and could lead to the closure of newspapers.

If such a system had been in force when The Telegraph revealed the results of its investigation into MPs’ expenses, Kean said, every MP involved would have had a right to an individual hearing and an appeal.

“This is totally unrealistic and will put an enormous burden on the media,” she said.

“There will be a radically different press if he is successful with a lot of the colour taken away…

“We would see papers folding because they can’t afford the legal costs. I hate to say it but it would imperil investigative journalism.”

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