Naomi Campbell: 'I'm a recovering drug addict'

Cahal Milmo
Tuesday 12 February 2002 01:00

It was a classic Naomi Campbell performance – pouting lips, immaculate dress and barely concealed petulance. Only yesterday, it was not the adoring spotlights of Milan or New York that the supermodel found herself under but the ruthless cross-examination of a barrister in London's High Court.

The Streatham-born fashion diva had entered the wood-panelled surroundings of Court 13 at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand shortly before 10.30am determined to set a legal precedent by establishing a right to privacy to protect her from media intrusion.

The Daily Mirror, she said, had left her feeling "shocked, angry, betrayed and violated'' by allegedly obtaining details of her plans to attend two Narcotics Anonymous classes to help overcome a long-standing drug addiction.

The paper published a story on 1 February 2001, headlined "Naomi: I am a drug addict'', after a photographer took pictures of her leaving a meeting in the King's Road, Chelsea, and a reporter attended a second session in a bookshop in Fulham to obtain quotes from the model about her addiction.

But rather than discussing the excesses of the tabloids, Ms Campbell, 31, found herself at the wrong end of an in-depth discussion of her own over-indulgence. Immaculately clad in a grey trouser suit, shimmering pink tie and white shirt, the model entered the witness box to face a barrage of questions from Desmond Browne QC, representing Mirror Group Newspapers.

Asked whether she had suffered a drug addiction since 1997 and had committed a criminal offence as a result, Ms Campbell pausedbefore answering with a single "Yes''.

Mr Browne, perhaps sensing an early victory over the model who was convicted in Canada two years ago of assaulting an assistant by throwing a mobile phone, pressed on: "Do you accept that your behaviour is notorious? That you have a reputation for tantrums?'' The answers, again with pregnant pauses, were: "Yes."

In a courtroom packed with journalists (the Mirror editor Piers Morgan sat on the newspaper's benches just a few feet from the model), Ms Campbell told how she realised in July 1997 that she was a drug addict and had sought treatment.

In a series of fraught exchanges, Mr Browne accused the fashion icon of lying about never taking drugs. In one interview in The Daily Telegraph in June 1997, following reports that she had taken a barbiturate overdose in the Canary Islands, Ms Campbell said: "Maybe I am just a target again because of the stories about other models taking drugs. I am not like that.'

Mr Justice Morland heard claims that the model had used her media profile to promote business ventures from the disastrous Fashion Cafe restaurant chain to a perfume, and given conflicting accounts of the Canary Islands incident, which she told the court was an allergic reaction to penicillin.

Mr Browne said that by courting publicity, Ms Campbell had laid herself open to legitimate exposure, and the Mirror's publication of her treatment at Narcotics Anonymous had only been the most "trivial and banal'' aspect of its story.

He said: "It is about whether there is a right for celebrities to manipulate their public image to their own benefit.''

Lawyers for Ms Campbell countered byalleging that the Daily Mirror had been leaked details of the model's diary for 30 January 2001 by a member of NA staff or one of her own assistants.

Andrew Caldecott QC, for Ms Campbell, accused Mr Morgan of concealing the truth when he told the model's London agent, Carole White, that a reporter had chanced upon the model and followed her to the NA meeting, and then changed his story to claim that the paper had been tipped off.

Assurances that the story would be sympathetic were followed by articles attacking Ms Campbell as a "greedy, selfish celebrity'', the court heard. One, by the columnist Sue Carroll, who accused Ms Campbell of being no more effective as a charity campaigner than a "chocolate soldier'', was taken by the model as racist.

Mr Caldecott told the court: "The Mirror's case is that Ms Campbell forfeited all her protection because she discussed her family, her boyfriend and posed for saucy photographs in a Madonna book. We say: So what? how can anodyne disclosures like that waive forever her right to privacy for her treatment for drug addiction?"

The case continues.

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