The Sun’s successful challenge to an injunction obtained by Heather Mills, Sir Paul McCartney’s girlfriend, to stop it publishing a story about her new house, will send a message to celebrities and their agents that they do not edit newspapers – editors do, said David Yelland.
The Sun editor described Tuesday’s overturning of the injunction, which had been obtained from a judge at 8pm without the newspaper knowing of the application, as "a brilliant victory". It has cost Mills an estimated £50,000 in legal fees to fight to keep a story out of the paper which Yelland had already assured her it was not going to print.
He said he felt the tide was turning for the newspaper in court battles. "We do seem to be winning now. Grobbelaar was the turning point. The ‘new’ Sun has been recognised by the courts – if we act responsibly, they will give us the benefit of the doubt."
Yelland confirmed he was never going to print the story which would have given away the location of Mills’ new house – in a celebrity area of a south coast town – "because it was Paul McCartney, and I don’t want to be responsible for the death of Paul McCartney".
Mills’ plea for privacy had been based on the stabbing of another former Beatle, George Harrison, at his home. There are believed to be two stalkers who might give the couple trouble.
But, in deciding for The Sun in the High Court, Mr Justice Collins said: "It is not likely that she would have chosen her home if personal security were uppermost in her mind."
Yelland told Press Gazette: "We can’t have celebrities injuncting us at eight o’clock at night and editing the paper. The message has gone out to all these people, their agents and lawyers that the courts will side for us if we act within the PCC Editors’ Code of Practice and with common sense.
"Those are the two things that guide me, primarily common sense because sometimes there are things you can do within the code which are not the right things to do."
Yet he fully expects to see the story used in another newspaper.
"But it is a turning of the tide. We edit the papers. Piers Morgan, Paul Dacre, whoever – we have the right to decide what to put in the paper, not celebrities and not the courts, if we are acting reasonably."
He maintained that his newspaper had acted reasonably over the story but that Mills and her lawyers had "just bullied us".
By Jean Morgan