The worst kept secret in English football is finally out: the national team captain, John Terry, 29, had an affair with French model Vanessa Perroncel, 28, the ex-girlfriend of former Chelsea teammate, neighbour, fellow England player, and supposed friend Wayne Bridge.
On Friday, Mr. Terry lost a legal battle to keep details of the affair secret. In lifting the week-old “super-injunction” – which prevented publication of stories about the relationship and the very existence of an injunction – High Court Justice Michael Tugendhat said Mr. Terry’s prime concern was “to protect his reputation, in particular with sponsors.”
Mr. Tugendhat also dismissed Mr. Terry’s contention that publication jeopardised the rights of his family to a private life under the Human Rights Act: “I do not find it credible that rumours that have circulated as widely as the rumours in this case … have not yet reached the ears of at least [Mrs. Terry]. If they have not yet got that far, they surely will do very soon.”
He added: “There is no suggestion that the conduct in question in the present case ought to be unlawful or that any editor would ever suggest that it should be. But in a plural society there would be some who would suggest that it ought to be discouraged. That is why sponsors may be sensitive to the public image of these sportspersons whom they pay to promote their products.”
“Freedom to live as one chooses is one of the most valuable freedoms.
“But so is the freedom to criticise, within the limits of the law, the conduct of other members of society as being socially harmful, or wrong.”
The judge concluded “damages would be an adequate remedy if [Mr. Terry] succeeds at trial” and an injunction was “not necessary or proportionate having regard to the level of gravity of interference with [Mr. Terry’s] private life.”
As if that weren’t bad enough for Mr. Terry, the judge also ordered he pay £20,000 in legal costs.
In recent times, English libel law has received much criticism over the comparative ease with which the rich and famous obtain “super-injunctions” to stifle negative publicity.
But this case suggests the old principle of “published and be damned” is returning to favour. This allows the media to publish a story albeit at the risk of having to pay damages if they get it wrong.
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