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100,000 claim over Zeta Jones pictures

Ciar Byrne
Wednesday July 16, 2003

Catherine Zeta Jones
Zeta Jones: claims against Hello! total 100,000
Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas are claiming 50,000 each for the "distress" caused by Hello! magazine's snatched photographs of their lavish wedding in New York almost two years ago.

And they have reiterated their claims that Hello's photographs, which including one of Zeta Jones eating cake, were intrustive and hurtful.

The Hollywood couple have already won their case against Hello! magazine on the grounds that the photographs were a breach of confidence.

In a high court hearing to decide the extent of damages, representatives of the actors said they felt the infiltration of their wedding by a paparazzi photographer who sold sneaked pictures to Hello! was "rather like a burglary".

The pair are claiming damages for "real personal distress", their counsel Alastair Wilson QC told the high court today.

He said both the claimants' commercial rights were interfered with because they had licensed their wedding pictures exclusively to OK! for 1m, and that they had "suffered real personal distress" on account of the incident.

"It's rather like a burglary, your possessions are stolen and their value gone - and at the same time, you feel a sense of personal invasion of privacy and real distress quite separate from the value of your possessions which has now disappeared," Mr Wilson said.

Hello!'s lawyers today argued the Douglases cannot claim damages for distress because it was only their commercial rights which were breached. However Mr Wilson pointed out that in his earlier judgment on the case in April, Mr Justice Lindsay had said that the Douglases suffered distress.

He told the court that the couple licensed their wedding pictures to OK! in a bid to minimise paparazzi attention on their wedding.

"It's difficult for them to let their hair down in public, and this was an occasion upon which they hoped to be able to do so. As it turned out, there was a snake in the grass - Mr Thorpe Jnr."

Hello! magazine paid 125,000 for the unauthorised pictures taken by Rupert Thorpe, son of the former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe.

During the six week hearing earlier this year, Zeta Jones told how she had felt "devastated, shocked and appalled" when she realised that paparazzi had gatecrashed her wedding at New York's Plaza Hotel in November 2000.

She and her 58-year-old husband had signed the 1m deal with rival OK! for exclusive coverage of the event after turning down a higher offer from Hello!.

Zeta Jones, 33, said she felt "violated" when Hello! published the unauthorised photographs, which she claimed were "sleazy and unflattering".

Although characterised as a defeat by several newspapers, including the Express, which is owned by the proprietor of OK! magazine, the courts found in Zeta Jones' favour back in April.

In an indictment of Hello!, the judge said the "conscience" of the defendants was "tainted", that they had deliberately set out to get photographs of the couple even though they knew "a very considerable sum" had been paid by their rival for the wedding deal.

"There was an intrusion into individuals' private lives without consent... I do not hold the intrusion to have been justified," Mr Justice Lindsay said.

However, the judge specifically said their legal victory was not based on the allegations of a breach of privacy but on the grounds of commercial confidentiality under the law of confidence and the Data Protection Act.

The judge dismissed nine other claims made by the couple and OK!, including the allegations that they had conspired or commissioned the snatch photos or had intended to damage the Douglases.

In a significant warning shot, Mr Justice Lindsay said if parliament did not consider introducing a law of privacy, judges may have to.

He said the fact the couple were famous had no bearing on the case.

· To contact the MediaGuardian newsdesk email or phone 020 7239 9857

 Damages claim
16.05.2003: July date set for Zeta Jones damages hearing

 The verdict
11.04.2003: Zeta Jones wins high court battle
11.04.2003: Full summary of judgment

 The case explained
11.04.2003: How the Hello! spoiler went wrong

12.04.2003: Zeta-Jones victory raises threat of privacy law
11.04.2003: Zeta Jones judge warns over privacy law
11.04.2003: Madonna's PR and Max Clifford on the ruling
11.04.2003: OK! hails 'historic' victory
11.04.2003: Case means end of road for spoilers

 The QCs
11.04.2003: Legal eagles: Tugendhat and Price

14.04.2003: Keith Schilling: Private lessons
11.04.2003: Crisis of confidence: a lawyer writes
11.04.2003: The media must heed this warning shot: a lawyer writes

 Reporting of the case
16.04.2003: Desmond complains at Standard coverage

 How the high court action unfolded
09.04.2003: Zeta Jones verdict due on Friday
10.03.2003: Hello! accused of 'unpleasant' wedding coverage
07.03.2003: Zeta Jones offered wedding 'slice'
07.03.2003: Hello! treated marquesa like a 'doormat'
04.03.2003: Zeta Jones wedding photos 'sold to porn magazine'
04.03.2003: Stars sought to 'control publicity'
18.02.2003: Hello! boss admits to 'misunderstanding'
17.02.2003: Stars 'exaggerated distress', says Hello!
14.02.2003: Hello! attacks 'obsessive' rival
14.02.2003: Zeta Jones wanted money not privacy, says Hello! boss
13.02.2003: Marquesa: 'Hello! boss asked me to lie'
13.02.2003: Stars 'childish' over wedding
12.02.2003: A New York hotel 'could never be private'
12.02.2003: Hello!'s fixer is 'impetuous'
12.02.2003: Hello! 'did not conspire with paparazzi'
12.02.2003: Rod Liddle: Don't let them eat cake
11.02.2003: Zeta Jones hired three security firms for wedding
11.02.2003: Hello! defends use of wedding pictures
11.02.2003: Hello! spoiler cost OK! dear
11.02.2003: Press turns on Zeta Jones
10.02.2003: Douglas: we don't have to 'play ball' with media
11.02.2003: Catherine Zeta Jones' statement
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones accused of over-reacting
10.02.2003: Douglas: we guard our privacy closely
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones: 1m is 'not that much'
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones: I didn't sell my privacy
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones: paparazzi are 'game-hunters'
10.02.2003: Douglas hits out at 'peeping toms'
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones: 'devastated' by paparazzi
10.02.2003: Hollywood comes to town
10.02.2003: Matt Wells: Privacy goes to Hollywood
05.02.2003: Press spoilers 'are commonplace', court told
05.02.2003: Weddings are 'public occasions' says Zeta Jones judge
04.02.2003: Douglases 'forfeited right to privacy'
04.02.2003: Stars and celebrity mags act out their own court drama
04.02.2003: Zeta Jones hires ex-Sunday Times journalist for PR brief
03.02.2003: Douglases gave 'qualified consent' to photos
03.02.2003: Thorpe's son named in Zeta Jones case
03.02.2003: Hello! in 'covert' operation to get wedding pics
03.02.2003: Hollywood stars prepare for battle

 Preliminary hearings
28.01.2003: Zeta Jones worried about 'unflattering' photos
27.01.2003: Bid to delay Hollywood stars' court case
16.01.2003: Hello! case will be media circus
21.12.2000: Zeta Jones to sue Hello!
21.12.2000: Zeta Jones free to sue Hello! special report
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