Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Judge considers footballer secrecy

Imogen Thomas arrives at the High Court for a hearing linked to the injunction protecting the identity of a footballer with whom she had an affair

A High Court judge is deciding whether to allow journalists to name a married footballer said to have had a "sexual relationship" with a reality television star.

Lawyers for The Sun newspaper asked Mr Justice Eady to lift an order protecting the identity of the player - who is said to have had an affair with "busty Big Brother babe" Imogen Thomas.

The judge reserved judgment after hearing arguments in private at the High Court in London. Lawyers said after the hearing that they expected a decision "soon".

Sun lawyers had argued that the identity of the footballer, who has a family, had leaked into the "public domain" and any order should not prevent "further publication".

Richard Spearman QC, for The Sun's publisher, News Group Newspapers, told the judge he was "pretty confident" that the footballer's identity was known to all journalists covering the case.

Earlier the judge had explained why he had made the temporary injunction against News Group Newspapers and Ms Thomas to prevent the footballer's name being reported - and denied courts were introducing "a privacy law by the back door".

Mr Justice Eady, who gave journalists a written explanation of his reasons for imposing the injunction in April, said he had weighed competing rights to privacy and freedom of expression laid down in the European Human Rights Convention. He said he had concluded the footballer had been "fully entitled to the protection of anonymity" until the case came to trial.

Mr Justice Eady said it seemed that the footballer may have been "set up" and evidence "appeared strongly to suggest" that he was "being blackmailed".

He said The Sun seemed to have taken advantage of pre-arranged meetings at hotels in order to claim that the footballer had been found "romping with a busty Big Brother babe".

Outside court, Ms Thomas said she was "outraged" at being accused of blackmail and added: "Nothing could be further from the truth."

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