Mosley’s sexual antics, no reason to remove him

Sexual Privacy Being an avid F1 fan, I’ve been following closely the most recent scandal to afflict Formula One. Way back in March, the News of the World released an expose of FIA president Max Mosley’s sexual shenanigans with 4 prostitutes in which he was filmed participating in an array of sadomasochistic capers. Alleged by the News of the World, although fervently denied by Mosley, was that role-playing scenes based on a Nazi concentration camp setting were acted out in the course of the activities.

Given the highly sensitive and contentious nature of Mosley’s alleged activities, many in the F1 paddock have been keen to distance themselves as far as possible from the beleaguered FIA president. Many consider Mosley’s continuance in the role as untenable. In April, even F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone turned against his tacitly acknowledged right-hand-man.

With Mosley up to face a vote of confidence in an extraordinary general meeting he called of the FIA, scheduled for 3rd June, time may well be running out.

Personally, I have always believed Mosley to do a good job in what is an incredibly difficult role. He works hard as FIA president, has helped the sport weather many crises and is sufficiently forward-thinking to help lead the sport in the future. Whatever Mosley chooses to do in his private time, it does nothing to detract from the great job he does as president.

As David Pannick points out in his article for the Times Law supplement this week:

while there are many reasons for removing Mr Mosley from office, his sordid private life, as exposed in the News of the World, is not one of them.”

Mosley currently has a high court action pending in which he is suing the News of the World for breach of privacy.  Pannick again:

 There is no conceivable public interest, however interested the public may be, in a newspaper exposing that Mr Mosley,...
The newspaper seeks to justify the intrusion by arguing that Mr Mosley is a public figure and the public are entitled to know what sort of man he is.

But as Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, as Master of the Rolls, stated in the Naomi Campbell case in 2002: “The fact that an individual has achieved prominence on the public stage does not mean that his private life can be laid bare by the media.” Even if Mr Mosley’s sex life involves fantasising about concentration camps (which he denies), that does not make it anything more than part of his fantasy sex life. To recognise a defence for the newspaper in such a case would be generally to deny public figures a right to privacy for their sexual identity.”

On the face of it, you can’t argue with the logic of that. I’m no expert in privacy law but I’d say that Mosley is certainly in with a shout as far as the high court action is concerned. As for the future of his role as FIA president, the outlook is perhaps more bleak. The meeting on June 3rd is going to be nip and tuck to say the least. I’ve no doubt of Moseley’s continued aptitude to do his job, but in a sport in which politics and scheming machiavellian chancers are rife, I’m not sure if this is one battle Mosley has already lost.

Comments

  1. Isn't the question, 'why do MI5 want him out?'

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  2. Its an interesting case and I agree with most of what Pannick QC said. Its interesting how there are two separate questions being considered: are the specific details of the disclosure in the public interest? (i.e. do we really need to know what Mosley does in his spare time) and secondly, is Mosley a public figure?

    I think its easier to draw the line on the second question. Some people will be affected by this news and (rightly or wrongly) will think differently about Mosley henceforth. I, on the other hand, as someone who has no interest in F1, am not affected by this news in the slightest way and so didn't need to hear about it.

    Ultimately, I don't think this should end his career. However, if it does, I wouldn't think that a wrong has been committed against him.

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