Soccer: Year-long court battle to name 'cheating rat'

The naming of Garry Flitcroft completed a successful legal battle by the Sunday People, which has been fighting to identify him for nearly a year.

The naming of Garry Flitcroft completed a successful legal battle by the Sunday People, which has been fighting to identify him for nearly a year.

The Court of Appeal ruling earlier this month that he could be named was hailed by Neil Wallis, the newspaper’s editor, as a ‘‘historic victory’’ and he said then he was confident the case would not go to a full hearing in the House of Lords.

He said: ‘‘This man has spent £200,000 (€327,000) so far to hide the fact that he is a cheating rat.’’

The rich and famous who sought publicity and sold themselves to the glossy magazines and the newspapers put themselves in the public domain and laid themselves open to investigation by the media, Mr Wallis said.

Just because the footballer was married and did not want the truth to get out did not mean he could choose to gag the two women involved.

The Sunday People on November 11 carried allegations about the unnamed footballer’s behaviour by two women known only as Miss C and Miss D.

The newspaper said the injunction granted by Mr Justice Jack was the culmination of a legal battle which started on April 27 and posed ‘‘a grave threat to Press freedom’’.

His ruling in September had created a ‘‘love-rat’s charter’’ by declaring all sexual relations, however immoral, must remain secret no matter what, the newspaper said.

It appealed against the ruling and was victorious on March 11 when Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, and two other top judges, said: ‘‘In our view, to grant an injunction would be an unjustified interference with the freedom of the press.

‘‘Once it is accepted that the freedom of the press should prevail, then the form of reporting in the press is not a matter for the courts but for the Press Council (now the Press Complaints Commission) and the customers of the newspaper concerned.’’

Mr Justice Jack had rejected the newspaper’s argument that there was a public interest in the articles, which he described as ‘‘salacious details’’.

But Lord Woolf said: ‘‘Footballers are role models for young people and undesirable behaviour on their part can set an unfortunate example.’’

The footballer was ‘‘inevitably a figure in whom a section of the public and the media would be interested’’.

But the player was given three weeks’ grace to convince the Law Lords they should hear his case that confidentiality laws apply to affairs outside marriage.

The player’s lawyers this week applied on paper and before Lord Woolf sitting in open court for the injunction to be extended.

Lord Woolf ruled that the footballer had run out of time and the story ‘‘would inevitably emerge irrespective of the order which the court has made’’.

He said: ‘‘One of the main reasons why the court was prepared to grant a stay was because the case was put forward in the Court of Appeal that it was one where the claimant was anxious to protect his wife and child from the damaging consequences of the publicity.

‘‘But the claimant it appears has himself said something to his wife, apparently not the full story, as to what has happened.’’

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