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'Hello!' happy to pay the Douglases 14,600 for snatched wedding snaps

By Arifa Akbar

08 November 2003

Catherine Zeta Jones declared in court that £1m was a lot of money to a "lot of people", adding: "But it is not that much of a lot of money for us."

Yesterday the Hollywood diva and her actor husband, Michael Douglas, were awarded an even more minuscule amount of money, £14,600, for their three-year court battle against Hello! magazine for snatching pictures of their celebrity wedding.

The Hollywood actors had claimed a modest £600,000 for damage to their commercial rights as well as personal distress for Hello!'s breach of a £1m deal between the couple and OK! magazine for exclusive coverage of their nuptials in New York in 2000.

But in the High Court yesterday Mr Justice Lindsay ruled out giving the wealthy couple substantial damages. He ordered Hello! to pay OK! £1,033,156, for publishing its covertly taken photos of the wedding before its bitter rival.

The Welsh actress said in court that the "sleazy" paparazzo photographs, including one which showed her being fed wedding cake, had caused her personal distress. The magazine printed pictures of the wedding three days before the official images appeared in OK!

Ms Zeta Jones, 34, was distressed that some pictures had been unflattering, particularly the cake-swallowing one. She had told the court: "I don't usually like my husband shoving a spoon down my throat to be photographed. It was cheap and tacky and everything I didn't want."

The judge ruled against the couple's claim of invasion of privacy and rejected their demands for "aggravated and exemplary damages". But he acknowledged that Hello! had breached their rights of confidence, saying it was culpable for publishing the photographs but not for the distress caused by the uninvited photographer.

Hello! said it was "very happy" with the award to the couple but it would appeal against the judgment of commercial damage to its rival's exclusive coverage. The couple said the award vindicated them on "a matter of principle". The money is to be donated to The Family Learning Centre.

Who pays the £4m legal costs has still to be settled.


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