Press standards, privacy and libel - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Question Number 119)


10 MARCH 2009

  Q119 Chairman: Good morning everybody. This is the second session of the Committee's inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel. We are pleased to welcome as our sole witness this morning the president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), Mr Max Mosley. It is fair to say that Mr Mosley offered to come and give evidence to the Committee but it was an offer that we were very happy to take up and I would like to thank you for giving up your time to come here. The reports of the party that you attended suggested that it had a Nazi theme, something that you vigorously contested and that lay at the heart of the judgment. Given that that statement was untrue, why did you choose to use privacy law rather than a libel action?

  Mr Mosley: The libel action, I was advised, would take probably two years to come on by which time, as far as I was concerned, particularly internationally, the damage was done. It was very important to me to get the Nazi lie, because it was a complete lie and invention, nailed as quickly as possible. Because the court felt that had I had notice of what happened I would have got an injunction, the court listened sympathetically to an application that there should be an expedited trial and this enabled me to get the matter before a court, before a judge, a full trial, within three months which is almost unheard of for a full High Court trial. It put enormous stress, certainly on the lawyers on my side and I think probably also the other side. That enabled the issue to come to a full open hearing at court and to be determined which it was. Of course the libel action remains open. It would be difficult to sue for libel about the first edition of the newspaper which was all about the Nazi allegation because that has been decided and I think the court might feel that I was overdoing it by suing for libel on that. Where I certainly can and could sue for libel is on the second edition of the newspaper where they said that when I denied there was a Nazi element I was telling a lie. I think they gave me five pages on the second Sunday saying that I was a liar. That clearly is defamatory and the question then arises as to whether to sue them for that or not. That is still under consideration because I will have to make my mind up about that definitely by the end of July.

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