Mosley Loses European Court of Human Rights Challlenge to UK Privacy Laws

Published 13 May 2011

Mosley Loses European Court of Human Rights Challlenge to UK Privacy Laws

By Jamie Horner, Ashfords LLP. Max Mosley, the former president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), has lost the privacy-related case that he brought before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Lord Pannick QC, acting on behalf of Mr Mosley, had argued at the ECHR hearing, which took place in January, that because UK law failed to compel newspapers to notify their "victims" before revealing details about their private lives it violated the European Convention of Human Rights, to which Britain is, of course, a signatory.

He added that the High Court award of damages did not restore Mosley's privacy, but that "prior notification" would have give him the chance to seek an injunction preventing publication. 

In 2008, Justice Eady held that the News of the World had invaded Mr Mosley's right to privacy by publishing details about his private life awarded him compensatory damages of £60,000 (Mosley had been seeking punitive damages) and his costs (rumoured to have been in the region of £500,000). 

An alternative view, not surprisingly supported by the media, is that imposing a "pre-publication notification" to strengthen the "right to private life" would be a breach of the "right to freedom of expression".

The ECHR ruling confirmed that Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights does not require a legally binding pre-notification requirement and that there had been no violation of Article 8 of the convention by the absence of such a requirement in UK law. 

The ECHR also indicated that such a "pre-notification process" could have a "chilling effect" on the media and that it had "significant doubts" as to whether such system would be effective. 

The ECHR judges also noted the result of a UK parliamentary inquiry on privacy issues which had been recently held, and which also rejected the need for "pre-notification". 

The UK government's view is that current privacy laws strike a good balance between the "right to private life" and the "right of freedom of expression", which are both guaranteed by Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and that signatories to the Convention should have a "wide margin of appreciation" in deciding how national laws should reflect the rules set out in the Convention. 

Ashfords LLP is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The information in this note is intended to be general information about English law only and not comprehensive. It is not to be relied on as legal advice nor as an alternative to taking professional advice relating to specific circumstances.