Judge considers Ryan Giggs damages claim


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The Independent Online

A High Court judge is considering whether a damages claim made by Manchester United and Wales footballer Ryan Giggs against The Sun newspaper should be thrown out.

The Sun says Giggs' claim - made after the newspaper published an article about a relationship with reality television star Imogen Thomas - is "dead in the water" and should be stopped.

Giggs says The Sun "misused" private information and argues that he is entitled to claim damages for distress and breach of a right to privacy enshrined in human rights legislation.

At the High Court in London today, Mr Justice Tugendhat heard legal argument about whether Giggs' damages claim should proceed.

He reserved judgment on whether there should be a trial to a date to be fixed.

Giggs was named in open court for the first time at today's hearing - after starting legal action following the publication of the article in April 2011 - as a result of a judge concluding that anonymity was no longer necessary.

A judge had ruled that Giggs should not be identified in order to protect his privacy - but the star has been named in many publications after his identity was revealed in Parliament.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said at today's hearing that anonymity no longer applied to Giggs.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Giggs, argued today that The Sun had misused private information in the article - in which Giggs was not identified.

Mr Tomlinson said Giggs was claiming damages for the subsequent re-publication of information in other newspapers and on the internet - and argued that his claim should go to trial.

"He has suffered damage and distress by the chain of events that has been set off by the publication of the article in The Sun," Mr Tomlinson told Mr Justice Tugendhat.

"We say the printing of information on the front page of a national newspaper can give rise to an action for misuse of private information."

He suggested that The Sun article had "generated a large media storm" and said the damages claim was about "providing effective protection" for Giggs' right to privacy - enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Richard Spearman QC, for The Sun's publisher, News Group Newspapers, said the article had reported Ms Thomas's relationship with a Premier League player and had not identified Giggs.

He said The Sun had behaved "properly" and was not responsible for what had happened after the article appeared.

"We didn't identify him. We didn't intend to identify him," said Mr Spearman. "On the damages for publication, it is dead in the water, this case."

He added: "All we have done is publish one story, which we told him about before we did it. We behaved entirely properly. We gave advance notice of what we were doing. We gave an opportunity to seek an injunction."

Mr Spearman said legal action had been "spun along for a long, long time" - an allegation Mr Tomlinson described as being "wholly without foundation" - and told the court: "Going forward, there just is not a basis."

A judge said Giggs should not be identified in reports of the litigation shortly after the article was published last April - and he has been referred to by initials in court listings.

But last May, Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to name Giggs as the player involved in the case, when speaking in the Commons.

Giggs was subsequently named as the player involved in many reports - even though the court order banning identification remained.

At a hearing in December, a judge told lawyers: "There is no longer any point in maintaining the anonymity."

And today, Mr Justice Tugendhat told the court: "Anonymity no longer applies."

Giggs was named for the first time in open court by Mr Spearman, as he outlined legal argument at today's hearing.

Giggs also took legal action against Imogen Thomas - but David Price QC, for Ms Thomas, told Mr Justice Eady at a High Court hearing in London on December 15: "(Giggs) and Ms Thomas have now resolved matters between them."