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Nov 8 2003

Star awarded paltry £14,600 in battle over wedding pics

By Stephen Howard

CATHERINE Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas were awarded just £14,600 yesterday over paparazzi photos of their wedding appearing in a magazine.

The payout was a mere fraction of the £600,000 the Hollywood couple had been hoping to pocket from a long-running court drama.

But Hello! who published the unauthorised snaps were ordered to pay rivals OK! just over £1 million damages.

The couple had an exclusive £1 million deal with OK! for picture rights to their New York wedding three years ago.

The 34-year-old actress said she had been horrified when she saw photos appear first in Hello!.

She claimed they were tacky and made her look plump.

Her 59-year-old husband told a High Court hearing: ``It was a truly gut-wrenching experience.''

But in his judgment yesterday, Mr Justice Lindsay said Hello! must pay them each just £3750 for distress, £50 damages and £3500 for costs incurredwhen the stars sanctioned OK! to run the pictures early.

The award would pay for a firstclass round-trip flight for the couple from Los Angeles to London.

The judge said he based his calculations on the payout for OK! on what it might have sold if Hello! had not printed the pictures.

A later hearing will decide who will foot a £4 million legal bill.

Following the judgment, both sides claimed victory.

Hello! publishing director Sally Cartwright said: ``We are very happy. It reiterates clearly the decision of the judge that Hello! at no time had any intention of damaging the Douglases.''

But she said they were consideringappealing against the OK! award. OK! lawyer Maninder Gill said: ``We are delighted having won historic damages.

``The Douglases took the action as a matter of principle and are delighted that the judge's ruling vindicated their position.''

The couple are to give their award to The Family Learning Centre, an American charity.

Originally, they had claimed £500,000 commercial damages from Hello!. But in July, they demanded an extra £50,000 each for the distress they claimed had been caused.

Giving evidence, Swansea-born Zeta-Jones brought gasps from the packed court when she was asked about the £1 million deal with OK!.

She said: ``It's a lot of money to people in this room, but it's not that much money to us.''

Fatal Attraction actor Douglas, 59, claimed their big day was ruined.

They felt violated and hurt by the intrusion of paparazzi photographer Rupert Thorpe, the son of former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe.

In April, Mr Justice Lindsay ruled the wedding was an exceptional event for any bride and groom. Being public figures did not lessen the couple's right to complain about intrusion.

But he threw out their claim to damages under invasion of privacy and ruled that they were not entitled to aggravated or exemplary damages.

He said the couple could not claim invasion of privacy because there was no effective privacy law in Britain.

He also rejected their claim that there had been an unlawful conspiracy to get the pictures.


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