The ex-husband of Rebekah Vardy, wife of England footballer Jamie, has won a complaint against the Sun on Sunday over an article claiming he forced her to do a kiss-and-tell interview about spending a night with a celebrity “because he wanted the money”.
The claim against Stephen Clarke was made by Vardy in an interview that ran in the Sun on Sunday on 19 November last year with the headline: “My hell with cheating, car killer hubby”.
Vardy was set to appear in TV show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! the same day as the story appeared in print.
It was published online with the headline: “‘I’M LUCKY I GOT OUT’ I’m A Celebrity’s Rebekah Vardy says she survived hell with cheating, car killer ex-husband”.
The story included claims Clarke had been abusive towards Vardy, all of which he denies.
Clarke complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the story breached Clause 1 (accuracy) and Clause 4 (intrusion into shock and grief) of the Editor’s Code of Practice.
The newspaper said Vardy had claimed that in 2004 Clarke told her that she had to sell a story to the News of the World about her night with a celebrity because he needed to pay off debts.
She was reported as having not wanted to do this, “but agreed after several heated conversations”. The story claimed Vardy received a cheque from the NotW and that Clarke then asked her for the money.
Clarke said it was not true that he had made Vardy “go public” about her night with a celebrity, saying payment records would show that she was paid for this story and kept the money herself.
IPSO ruled that while the newspaper had published Clarke’s broader denial of the claims against him, it had not included his denial of this “specific and serious claim” and so had breached Clause 1.
IPSO’s Complaints Committee said: “It was significantly misleading to report Ms Vardy’s claim about the payment, without also making the complainant’s position clear.
“The newspaper did not offer to publish a correction on this point, and the complaint was upheld as a breach of Clause 1.”
The committee ordered the Sun on Sunday to publish a correction. It read: “…IPSO’s Complaints Committee found that the complainant was never asked for his response to the serious and specific claim that he had made her sell a story about having spent a night with a celebrity.
“This was a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information, and no offer was made to publish a correction, making clear the complainant denied this specific claim…”
Clarke’s other complaints, including that the allegations made against him by Vardy were false and that he found the article “emotionally traumatising”, were dismissed by IPSO.
IPSO’s Complaints Committee said: “The article did not present these claims as having been established by the newspaper to be fact – care had been taken in the headline and text of the article to make clear that the newspaper was reporting Ms Vardy’s account.”
It said the Sun on Sunday had also included Clarke’s position that the allegations made against him were untrue.
The newspaper said the article was clearly Vardy’s account and she was “entitled to discuss what she considered to be an abusive marriage”. In response to the complaint, the Sun on Sunday provided an affidavit from Vardy stating her account of the relationship.
Under the complaint about intrusion into grief and shock, IPSO said: “The Committee acknowledged that the article had caused the complainant distress, but the article concerned his relationship with the complainant, which ended more than ten years before publication.
“This was not a case of ‘personal grief or shock’, such as to engage the terms of Clause 4.”
The Sun’s head of PR Andy Silvester said: “We are disappointed that IPSO has found in favour of the complainant on one minor aspect of his complaint, which in readers’ minds will regrettably imply that the whole story was inaccurate.
“Overall, IPSO found that The Sun on Sunday had accurately reported Rebekah Vardy’s story of what she says was an abusive marriage.
“IPSO did not take into consideration at all the fact that Ms Vardy had provided an affidavit, standing by her story, despite the importance that would be placed on an affidavit in a court of law.
“The Sun believes alleged victims have the right to speak out, and will continue to provide them with a voice. That the story is on such an emotive issue makes the ruling even more difficult to take.”