Max Mosley: Ministers in 'thrall' to Murdoch


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Former Formula 1 boss Max Mosley today accused British government of having been "completely in the thrall of" newspaper bosses.

Mr Mosley, who was the subject of a News of the World article alleging he had a "sick Nazi orgy", wanted the European courts to force journalists to notify people before publishing damaging stories about them.

But he had not thought it worth asking the British government to introduce such a law, he told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

Explaining why, he said: "The UK government were, to put it bluntly, completely in the thrall of Mr Murdoch and the other big newspaper people, who would have objected.

"That spell has now been broken, I think, fairly conclusively, and I don't see any reason why such a law should not be brought in."

The European Court of Human Rights has already rejected Mr Mosley's suggestion of a law requiring prior notification, but he insisted that in some cases it was "essential", in order to stop "an egregious breach of privacy".

Invasion of privacy, he argued, was "worse than burglary" as someone who is burgled can replace their lost belongings and repair the damage.

"If someone breaches your privacy you can never repair the damage, never put it right again," he said.

Mr Mosley was awarded a record £60,000 in privacy damages at the High Court after taking legal action against the News of the World for its Nazi orgy story published on March 30, 2008 - a story he strongly denied.

But, he said: "Once the information has been made public it can never ever be made private again."

After the court case he wrote to Rupert Murdoch, who owned the now defunct Sunday tabloid, setting out his concerns, the inquiry heard.

But Mr Mosley never received a reply, he said.

Echoing comments made by Labour MP Tom Watson to Mr Murdoch's son James at a House of Commons select committee hearing earlier this month, he said: "That to me is the conduct of the mafia.

"It's what you would expect if you wrote to the head of a mafia family complaining about one of their soldiers. You would probably get no reply."

Similarly, James Murdoch was accused by phone-hacking campaigner Mr Watson of acting like a "mafia boss" at his second appearance before the Commons Culture Committee's inquiry into the scandal on November 10.

Mr Mosley also reserved sharp words for Daily Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre who, following the "orgy" story, said Mr Mosley was "guilty of unimaginable depravity", the inquiry was told.

"I have no idea what Mr Dacre's sex life is," he said.

"It's not up to me to go into his bedroom, film him and write about it. It's his business.

"And equally if somebody has a slightly unusual sex life, exactly the same thing applies."

The hearing also heard details of the death in May 2009 of Mr Mosley's son, Alexander, who had been a drug addict.

Discussing the possible impact of the "orgy" story on the 39-year-old, he said: "For my sons, to see pictures of your father in that sort of situation all over the newspapers, all over the web ... he really couldn't bear it.

"He went back on the drugs and it would not be right to say he committed suicide, he didn't ...

"But like many people on hard drugs, it's extremely dangerous and you can make a small mistake and you die and that's what happened."

And he censured the "intrusive behaviour of journalists" in the wake of the death.

In one incident mentioned in his witness statement, he described visiting his son's house to sort out his personal effects when a "mob" of about 15 journalists appeared, apparently to photograph him and seek his comment.

"To me, what was so horrifying was there was no sense of 'this matters, these are human beings, these people actually mind, that is a terrible situation for anyone to be in,"' he told the inquiry.

"It's 'oh, maybe we can write a story so let's be there.'

"They had no human feeling at all."

Mosley took the News of the World to court, he said, because he wanted to "demonstrate they were liars".

This was despite being warned that it would cost him dearly and bring his private information back into the public domain, he added.

"Taking all that into account, I thought what they have done is so outrageous I wanted to get these people into the witness box and demonstrate they were liars," he said.

"And the only way to do this was to put up with this extremely unpleasant process."

And he was fortunate, he told the inquiry, in having enough money and a bit of legal knowledge to bring the action.

"I thought 'If I don't do it, who's going to?'," he said. "Because the number of people they pick on with a really bad case who have got the means to fight it is infinitesimally small.

"One of the terrible things is that unless you're very fortunate and happen to have a lot of money, you simply can't take this on, as things stand at the moment."

But he got the impression, he went on, that, after he challenged the story, the "entire resources of News International and News Group Newspapers" were deployed to try to "destroy me".

He said the story had been sent to the FIA (motor racing body) in the hope that they would "get rid of me".

But he said he had won an FIA vote of confidence.

However the story spread around the world via the internet, he noted.

He said he had begun proceedings against search engine Google in France and Germany.

"The fundamental thing is that Google could stop this appearing but they don't or won't as a matter of principle," he said.

"The really dangerous things are the search engines."

Efforts to restore his reputation, including by getting articles removed from websites, amounted to "well over £500,000 and it's ongoing", he said.