Footballers must not gag the press, says Perroncel

The model at the centre of a media storm tells Matthew Bell use of injunctions is excessive
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The Independent Online

Vanessa Perroncel, the model who shot to fame after being accused of having had an affair with the former England captain John Terry, has made a surprise attack on the use of injunctions by footballers, after two England players last week succeeded in keeping their sex lives out of the press.

In an interview with this newspaper, the 33-year-old former girlfriend of Manchester City left-back Wayne Bridge, said she had suffered because of an unnecessary injunction, as in her case "a simple denial would have done". She added that footballers who cash in on their profiles by selling wedding pictures to magazines should not be allowed to "cherry pick" what is then written about them by using the courts.

In February, Terry was awarded a super-injunction against the News of the World, which stopped the paper printing allegations he had had an affair with Perroncel, but it was later lifted. Perroncel has repeatedly denied the claim. She says she is angry that Terry took an injunction out, as she felt it was disproportionate. "There was no need: a simple denial would have done," she says. "People said I had been gagged but that wasn't true." She is angry at the damage the allegations did to her reputation, and at the red-top intrusion she suffered. But she believes newspapers should be free to report genuine cases of infidelity.

"Each case has its own answer," she said. "I don't think you can make a rule for everyone. There are some people who enjoy the limelight, and they let the press have really intimate information, like weddings, baptisms and so on. So why should these people then be allowed to cherry pick what the newspapers write about them? I know how expensive it is to take out an injunction, and it's not fair that footballers should be allowed to protect themselves because of their money. "

Perroncel says some footballers are not interested in media coverage, and have a right to a private life. "Wayne [Bridge] hated the publicity. We were just happy being happy and being in love. Of course it's flattering when magazines say they'd love to work with you. Footballers get idolised, and people enjoy reading about them. But Wayne and I didn't want any of that, so we should be allowed to be left in peace."

Last week Lord McNally, a justice minister, announced the Government may create Britain's first privacy law, which would put on statute decisions that are currently made by individual judges. Yesterday Lord Lester of Herne Hill condemned High Court judges for granting injunctions "too readily".

Perroncel says freedom of speech brings with it responsibility. "The press should think about whether a story is in the public interest. If so then they should print it. In my case I had nothing to hide, but what they wrote was untrue and very damaging, which is why I am now trying to clear my name."

French-born Perroncel says the British press is responsible for distorting the public's interest in footballers. "Why do we idolise them so much?," she laughs. "They only kick a ball, right?"

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