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OK told to repay £1m to Hello! over wedding snaps
(Filed: 18/05/2005)

Hello! magazine has won its £1 million battle with rival magazine OK over pictures of the wedding between Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas.

The Court of Appeal allowed Hello's challenge to the High Court's order that it pay more than £1 million damages for publishing the paparazzi pictures and another £1 million in legal costs to OK! which had an exclusive contract with the Hollywood couple to cover their New York wedding.

 
The Douglas's leaving the High Court during the case
The Douglas's leaving the High Court during the case

Hello!'s appeal against the ruling in favour of the Hollywood couple over privacy and commercial confidence was dismissed.

But the Court of Appeal judges threw out the couple's claim for more damages. It also rejected OK!'s cross appeal based on unlawful interference with business.

Chris Hutchings, solicitor for Hello!, said after the judgment was handed down that the ruling meant that his magazine's liability to OK! was now nil.

He said: "This was a spat between two rival publishers and not between Hello! and the Douglases.

"The judgment is a resounding win for Hello!"

He added: "As a result of our win, Richard Desmond (owner of Express Newspapers and OK! owners Northern and Shell), will now have to write a cheque to Hello! for a very large amount of money indeed."

But a statement issued by Northern and Shell said the appeal court had "fully vindicated" the Douglases' action against Hello!

"This decision will impact all publishers with exclusive rights as it means rivals will be free to run spoilers with no redress in law. "OK! will therefore be appealing this judgment to the House of Lords."

Hello! had admitted at a Court of Appeal hearing last December that the snatched pictures were published as a "spoiler" to lessen the impact of OK!'s exclusive £1 million contract with the Douglases to cover the wedding ceremony in November 2000.

The couple had been awarded a total of just £14,600 but OK! got £1,033,156 for what the judge said was commercial damage to its expected exclusive coverage.


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