Despite the victory of Naomi Campbell over The Mirror yesterday, there was some optimism in the newspaper industry that other celebrities who resort to legal means to stifle reporting will fail.
David Yelland, editor of The Sun who has been vilified by The Mirror's editor Piers Morgan, made clear that it was an issue over which newspapers should put aside their differences and unite. Ms Campbell had not really won her case against The Mirror at all, he said. "The Mirror won. So did all newspapers."
In today's newspaper, Mr Yelland lambasts celebrities for having "too much power – not too little. They are often weak, useless, arrogant bullies – who the press has a duty to expose". He said: "If the legal establishment wishes to gather its tanks on Fleet Street's lawns we will fire back. Even if it means standing shoulder to shoulder with our most bitter rival."
Neil Wallis, editor of the Sunday People, which faces legal action from the Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox after publishing nude pictures from her honeymoon, said the judgment showed The Mirror had committed only a "technical foul".
Although Ms Campbell won, the judgment reinforced and supported the guidelines laid down by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, in the recent case of the footballer who tried to prevent publication of his adulterous affairs, he said.
"This verdict is seriously bad news for erring celebrities and the wealthy and the famous who want to use the law to gag the media," Mr Wallis said. "Mr Justice Morland has said that if you are a celebrity who misbehaves and lives one life in public and behaves completely different in private, then you're an absolutely legitimate subject." He added: "The only group of people who have benefited out of this case are lawyers. If I were a celebrity, I would think long and hard about trying to misuse the law to gag the media over true stories."
Tom Crone, the lawyer for the News International titles, agreed there was nothing in the Campbell judgment that overturned the guidelines laid down in the footballer case. "What it has established primarily is what has always been the case but judges tend to forget, that there must be a good reason not to be allowed to publish."
Roger Alton, editor of The Observer, believed the press should exercise discretion to prevent the need for "a legalistic resolution". "I want to keep the law out of it," he said.Reuse content