Charges against a Sunday Mirror journalist arrested after a football fan’s intrusion into the England team’s dressing room during the World Cup in South Africa were dropped today.
Simon Wright, 44, had been charged with attempting to defeat the ends of justice and fraud.
But the charges were withdrawn during a short hearing this morning at Cape Town’s special World Cup court, his lawyer William Booth said.
Mr Booth said Wright paid a 750 rand (€77) admission of guilt fine for a technical breach of the Immigration Act.
He said: “He is relieved it’s over. He has been through absolute hell and his family want him back home. They have been through an emotional rollercoaster.”
Mr Booth said the charge of attempting to defeat the ends of justice was "removed from the court roll'' after prosecuting authorities agreed there was no evidence.
He said his client paid an admission of guilt fine concerning his request to put a different name in the Bay Hotel’s register, despite giving staff the correct details.
He added Wright was expected to leave South Africa tomorrow following the return of his passport.
Mr Booth told the court at a hearing on Wednesday that he wanted to record publicly that there was no charge of conspiracy or collusion between his client and the soccer fan, Pavlos Joseph.
Speaking outside court, he said the pair met as a result of a telephone call made to the Sunday Mirror by Mr Joseph’s sister and did not believe there was any basis for continuing with the charges.
Charges against football fan Joseph, who breached stadium security after England’s match against Algeria were dropped last week.
Cape Town Magistrates’ Court earlier heard that Joseph, 32, from Crystal Palace, south-east London, paid a 750 rand (€77) admission of guilt fine on June 29.
Joseph, a mortgage adviser, was accused of trespassing after he breached the Fifa World Cup Special Measure Act by walking into an area without being in possession of the necessary accreditation.
Wright interviewed him after the incident at the Green Point Stadium on June 18.
Joseph said he was looking for the toilet after the match when a security guard sent him in the direction of the players’ tunnel.
He claimed he took a wrong turn and found himself in the changing room, where he berated the players for their poor performance.
He said he told David Beckham: “David, we’ve spent a lot of money getting here. This is a disgrace. What are you going to do about it?”
Joseph was arrested on June 20, the day the interview was published. Pending the outcome of the case he was banned from attending any more World Cup matches, his passport was seized and he was released on bail.
Wright was subsequently arrested on June 28 at Cape Town international airport and first appeared in court two and a half hours later.
Police said Wright paid an admission of guilt fine for contravening a section of the Immigration Act related to trying to book two rooms at the hotel under an assumed name.
They added the additional two charges “automatically fell away” on the day of the trial as the matter had been dealt with administratively.
The Minister of Police, Mr Nathi Mthethwa said: “We welcome this outcome as it represents a major victory, not only for the criminal justice system but for the country as a whole.”
A Trinity Mirror spokesman said the company was "delighted" that the charges against Wright had been dropped.
A statement said: “The prosecution have accepted that he did not try to hide England fan Pavlos Joseph from the police at any time and he did not conceal his own identity from the Bay Hotel in Cape Town. All he was doing was protecting his exclusive interview.
“Most importantly the prosecution have finally conceded on the record that there was and has never been any suggestion that Simon colluded with Pavlos Joseph to enter the England dressing room after the game against Algeria.”
It added: “Simon, a respected journalist for 25 years, has had to endure enormous damage to his reputation all over the world as a result of an untrue statement made to the media which was not corrected even when it became apparent that there was absolutely no evidence, and had never been any, to suggest Simon knew Joseph before the incident. Simon simply secured an exclusive story many other media organisations were trying to obtain.
“Simon decided to accept the prosecution’s offer to pay an admission of guilt administrative fine for a very minor and technical breach of the Immigration Act concerning the filling in of a hotel register. This simply amounted to Simon asking the Bay Hotel to register himself under a pseudonym in order to protect the exclusivity of the story from other newspapers. The hotel were fully aware of Simon’s real identity at all times.
“Simon is glad that this is all over and he can now return home to his wife and young children.”