Max Mosley: Why I'm bringing my case

The courts are unable to act if the newspaper keeps its intentions secret

Friday 26 February 2010 01:00

My application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is on a relatively narrow point, namely that before publishing something which an individual might reasonably wish to keep private, an editor should notify the person concerned in advance.

This is because the law already requires certain things to be kept private. The courts will enforce the law but can only do so if the matter comes before them. But a case can only come before the court if the person concerned makes an application. The courts cannot act if the newspaper keeps its intentions secret.

As one of the tabloid editors admitted to the House of Commons Select Committee, in the great majority of cases the person concerned will have been approached and be fully aware. My case is that everyone should be entitled to this basic journalistic courtesy.

Much of the criticism we have met suggests that any interference with an editor's right to publish is wrong. But this is completely beside the point. The judges in the UK already have the power to restrain breaches of privacy, although the claimant must first show he is likely to win his case.

The power to restrain publication is not in issue in Strasbourg. The claim simply asks the UK Government to close a gap in the law which currently allows an editor to deprive an individual of any means of seeking the protection of the courts. Newspapers routinely do this by concealing their intention to publish until it is too late.

Once a private matter is published, no power on earth can remove it from the public mind. The damage to the individual is irreparable. It is worse than seizing a large part of a person's assets. We would never allow an editor unilaterally to seize a person's money without reference to a judge. It is clearly wrong to allow an editor who is about to destroy a life to keep his intentions secret so that the courts cannot intervene.

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