Beckhams go to court to demand no publicity

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The spectre of unwanted publicity from an unauthorised biography led to the start of a court battle yesterday involving Britain's most publicised couple.

The spectre of unwanted publicity from an unauthorised biography led to the start of a court battle yesterday involving Britain's most publicised couple.

David and Victoria Beckham claimed through their lawyers in the High Court that a forthcoming biography byAndrew Morton has used detail given by their former bodyguard, although he had signed a confidentiality agreement with the couple. Mr Morton wrote Diana: Her True Story about the Princess of Wales, published in 1992.

The Beckhams, like most pop music and sports stars, try to control their personal publicity, favouring positive publications such as Hello! and OK! magazines. The wedding of the Manchester United and England footballer and the Spice Girl was covered over two issues of OK!, a story that lifted its circulation above Hello!

But one argument yesterday from Mr Morton's barrister, Geoffrey Robertson QC, will worry many a star and please unofficial biographers. Mr Robertson said that part of the defence's case was based on the freedom of speech provisions of the new Human Rights Act, due to come into force in October.

Mr Justice Evans-Lombe was told the Beckhams were objecting to 2,500 words of the 60,000-word manuscript entitled Posh and Becks, to be published by Michael O'Mara Books. The couple say material was revealed to Mr Morton by the former bodyguard, Mark Niblett, in breach of a confidentiality clause in his employment contract.

The judge was told that Mr Niblett, 40, who parted company with the footballer and his wife - Posh Spice of the Spice Girls - in May and has been barred from disclosing any further details about the couple and their baby son, Brooklyn, was not involved in the negotiations because his role in the preparation of the book was now over.

The case is also seen as part of a race for publication in time for the Christmas market between the Morton book and David Beckham's My World, to be published by Hodder Headline next month.

Michael Tugendhat QC, for the Beckhams, said it was clear from disclosures made by Mr Morton that Mr Niblett "acted or attempted to act in disregard of his plain and obvious duties of confidentiality by offering a very large amount of material to Mr Morton, most of which he did not use".

Mr Morton argued that the material he did use was either not confidential or already in the public domain. This was disputed by the Beckhams, who wanted more deletions as well as those already negotiated. Mr Tugendhat said: "We say this is a very bad case of disloyalty and breach of confidentiality on the part of a former employee, very bad indeed, and not very much better on the part of the author and publisher."

Mr Robertson referred the judge to passages in Mr Morton's written evidence in which he spoke of the public interest in what he had written and pointed to the "self-generated publicity" that the Beckhams had arranged for themselves.

Urging Mr Justice Evans-Lombe to read as much of the book as possible to understand its developing "theme", Mr Robertson said: "You can't judge a book by its cover or by bits and pieces of it. The argument for publication is the public interest argument, namely that the public are entitled to know the truth."

Mr Robertson added that part of the defence case was based on the freedom of speech provisions of the new Human Rights Act.

The judge, who spent some of the day in his rooms reading the manuscript of the book and accompanying documents, adjourned the case until today. He was told that the Beckhams had withdrawn some objections, but others remained.

The hearing today will be in closed court because of the confidentiality claimed by the Beckhams over the material the judge will examine before giving his decision.