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Showdown: Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas at the hearing earlier this year

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Zeta and Douglas demand £50,000 each
By Paul Cheston, Evening Standard
16 July 2003

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones today demanded £100,000 for their hurt feelings when snatched pictures from their wedding appeared in Hello! magazine.

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Gallery: Zeta Jones in court
For the first time the Hollywood couple put a figure on their personal suffering, even though their claim for an invasion of privacy failed in the High Court.

Their demand for £50,000 each is on top of a claim for £500,000 for interference in their commercial rights to pictures of their wedding.

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Yet just months ago Oscar winner Zeta-Jones had told the court: "It's not about the money, it's absolutely not about the money." She added, in a telling aside: "One million pounds is not that much to us."

The couple ordered their lawyers to act after a handful of hazy pictures taken by gatecrasher Rupert Thorpe were published in Hello!"

The actors had signed a £1 million exclusive deal with rivals OK! for coverage of their wedding at the New York Plaza hotel in November 2000.

Chicago star Zeta-Jones, 33, said she felt "violated" when she found out that Hello! had been first to publish pictures.

Her husband, 58, said he felt as if his house had been ransacked and all his belongings thrown into the street. In April Mr Justice Lindsay rejected their privacy claim but accepted they had suffered distress and ruled the stars could sue for damages because their rights of confidence had been breached.

The couple and OK! submitted a joint bid for £2.5 million.

But today their counsel Alastair Wilson, QC, told the judge that that figure included £50,000 each for distress. He compared them with a victim of burglary.

"Their distress has continued to this day. You should take into account the huge care taken in this case to preserve privacy," he added.

"These are potent factors that push the damages a long way above what otherwise might be the norm.

"It would not be unreasonable to award them £50,000 each for their distress."

"Their commercial rights were interfered with and quite separately they suffered real personal distress.

"It's rather like a burglary when your possessions were stolen and their value was gone, and at the same time you felt a sense of personal invasion of privacy and a real distress quite separate from the value of your possessions, which have disappeared." Earlier today Mr Wilson-repeated the couple's account of the paparazzi harassment which led them to sign a £1 million wedding deal.

"Before the wedding took place Miss Zeta-Jones had had a baby and there had been considerable trouble in hospital about attempts to get photographs of her.

"Some photos were taken in an essentially private place as she left the hospital with the baby and appeared on the front cover of Hello!

"There was intrusion in the hospital to get photos but most distressing of all was the incident where Miss Zeta-Jones was driving in California and some British paparazzi quite deliberately drove into her car when her young son was aboard.

"They knew she would have to get out of the car to exchange details and she did so. The photographs that were taken appeared in the British press with a story about Miss Zeta-Jones and road rage.

"They had very good reason to be wary of the press and its intrusive behaviour, particularly with incidents of celebrity weddings being severely troubled with helicopters hovering overhead and photographers climbing walls and infiltrating guests."

Mr Wilson said the couple then remembered the £1 million offer made "as a bit of a flier" by OK! in September 1999 when they came to make their plans for their "essentially private" wedding.

Mr Wilson said that to reduce the market value of any paparazzi shots they decided on one recognised outlet for photographs, which would be taken under their control.

The case continues.

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