The Daily Mirror has taken legal action against the source of a story about a footballer’s love life in a bid to make her jointly responsible for libel damages.
Leicester City footballer Danny Simpson has heading to the High Court to seek damages from the Mirror over a 2012 story which alleged he had an affair with pop singer Tulisa whilst his girlfriend, Stephanie Ward, was pregnant with his child.
The Daily Mirror claims that Ward was the source of the story and it has filed a legal action against her to make her jointly responsible for it.
Press Gazette was made aware of the action this week after the Court of Appeal allowed the Mirror to proceed with its defence of justification (claiming that the story was true) at the expected trial.
The Daily Mirror’s claim form setting out its action against Ward states that on 14 November she called a Mirror journalist and revealed that Simpson had been “cheating” on her with Tulisa Contostavlos. She said he had been in a relationship with him for six years, was the mother of his child and was at the time pregnant with his second – the claim form states.
The Mirror contends that she gave this information intending that it be published.
The Mirror claims that it relied on Ward for ensuring the claims were true and she was therefore “jointly liable” for any libel damages awarded against the paper.
Ward sets out a rather different version of events in her account of the affair.
In a defence statement filed with the court, Ward said the contacted the Mirror after reading a story in the paper which said Simpson and Tulisa had been on a “romantic date” in Manchester and then returned to a hotel at 11.30pm.
She said she wanted the truth to be known about her relationship with Simpson so called the Mirror on 15 November 2012 to negotiate the sale of her story.
She said she explained who she was and why she was calling but made clear that she did not want the Mirror to publish anything until it had agreed on how much she would be paid.
After the call she said she appointed publicist Max Clifford to negotiate the sale of the story on her behalf and he negotiated a deal with The Sun newspaper.
When she was contacted again by the Mirror she says she told the paper clearly she no longer wanted it to publish her story.
She claims that the Mirror was aware, at all times, that the information she gave the paper was done so in confidence for the purposes of negotiation.
The Daily Mirror subsequently published an article based on its conversations with Ward, which she claims was in breach of its duty of confidentiality to her. She says, therefore, that she is not liable for any damage it may suffer as a result of publishing the piece.
In an earlier legal judgment which alluded to the fact the Mirror was suing ward, Mr Justice Warby said: “I am not sure it is unprecedented but it is certainly unusual for a newspaper to seek a contribution from a source.
“That, however, is no doubt for understandable commercial reasons. There seems to be no reason of principle why, in appropriate circumstances, a source may not be held liable to contribute to damages payable by a publisher to whom the source has provided a story for publication.”
Tulisa sued The Sun over its story claiming that she was a “home wrecker” over the alleged affair.
Simpson filed his legal claim against the Mirror over its version of the same story in November 2013.
According to the original claim form, that Mirror story was headlined: “Tulisa is just a homewrecker.. I’m devastated” – and it appeared on pages one, six and seven.
The Mirror declined to comment.
Picture of Tulisa Contostavlos, Reuters.