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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Zeta fights for 600,000 damages
Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas
The couple sued Hello! earlier this year

Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas have embarked on the next stage of their claim for 600,000 damages from Hello! magazine for publishing unauthorised photos of their wedding.

Lawyers for the couple were at London's High Court on Wednesday in the second part of the stars' legal battle with the magazine.

Alastair Wilson QC, representing the couple, argued his clients should be paid 500,000 in commercial damages.

But he added that his clients were now seeking to receive a minimum of 50,000 extra each in damages for "personal distress", comparing it to the distress of being burgled.

Rival publication OK! is also seeking damages of 1.75m, to cover the costs it paid the couple for the exclusive shots of their New York wedding.

This is a real distress quite separate from the value of possessions
Alastair Wilson QC

Mr Wilson said the couple should be awarded a figure that represented the "extreme circumstances" of the case.

"We say it would not be unreasonable in the extreme circumstances to award each of them 50,000 by way of damages for their personal distress," said Mr Wilson.

He added that the couple had gone to great lengths to try to ensure their privacy on their big day.

'Gatecrashed'

With regard to commercial damages for the Douglases, Mr Wilson said they might be calculated on the notional 500,000 the couple would have charged Hello! to use the pictures.

The damages hearing is the sequel to a lengthy court battle against Hello! earlier this year, at the end of which Mr Lindsay ruled Hello! had breached their rights of confidence.

At the start of Wednesday's proceedings, Mr Wilson argued that Hello!'s publication of the paparazzi photos was "like a burglary".

He said the judge should take this into account when deciding the damages due to the couple.

"This is rather like a burglary when possessions are stolen and the value gone and at the same time you feel a senses of personal invasion of privacy," Mr Wilson told the court.

"This is a real distress quite separate from the value of possessions which have also disappeared."

Real distress

The original court case in April lasted six weeks and became one of the most publicised cases heard at the High Court.

It was also seen as a landmark test of celebrity privacy rights.

Zeta Jones, 33, told how she had felt "devastated, shocked and appalled" when she realised paparazzi had gatecrashed her wedding at New York's Plaza Hotel in 2000.

The judge said then that the couple's celebrity did not mean they were less entitled to complain about intrusion.

There was no doubt they suffered real distress, he added.

The latest hearing is expected to last 10 days but the decision will be reserved until a later stage, possibly the end of this month.

The case was adjourned until Thursday.





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