Morgan, above, claims Campbell case ruling is a victory for The Mirror
Mirror Group Newspapers is to consider calling for supermodel Naomi Campbell to face perjury charges after a judge said she had lied under oath in her legal action against The Mirror for invasion of privacy and breach of confidence.
Campbell abandoned the action for privacy at the eleventh hour. But th
e newspaper group was fined £2,500 for the breach of confidence and breach of the Data Protection Act in exposing her as attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Campbell also won £1,000 aggravated damages for Mirror columnist Sue Carroll calling her "a chocolate soldier". MGN has been left with costs of £200,000 and was refused an appeal. But it can appeal direct to the Appeal Court.
Moments after Mr Justice Morland’s ruling was revealed, Mirror editor Piers Morgan told Press Gazette: "We will be asking whether this means Miss Campbell will be facing perjury charges. We will be pursuing that. We believe that this derisory result speaks for itself in that the whole case has been a total waste of time. The judge had very strong views about her deliberately lying about her drug problem; about her deliberately using the press when it suits her but not liking it when it goes the other way. He says she lied under oath."
Morgan regards the fines as being imposed on "a very fine technical point of law in relation to a duty of confidence".
"We have won the battle on privacy; she has won on a very tiny point of law on duty of confidence," he said.
He feels the award "speaks for itself. They say supermodels won’t get out of bed for less than £10,000. At this rate she wouldn’t have enough money to turn the bedsheets over.
"It is quite clear that the judge understood we had two ways of presenting this story – to expose Naomi Campbell as a sleazy drug addict or the path we chose." The Mirror claims its treatment of the story had been sympathetic to Campbell. Morgan added: "I feel extremely pleased. It was about as good as we could have expected short of an outright win.
"She has gone into court, she has had her reputation trashed and she is now known around the world as a lying drug addict. And she has received £3,500. In her world that’s not enough to buy a bag of gilt-edged peanuts. This is a victory for us."
But the judge decided that whoever told The Mirror that Campbell was attending the anti-drugs meeting had breached her confidence.
"The information clearly bore the badge of confidentiality and when received by the defendants they, Mr Morgan and the Mirror journalists, were clothed in conscience with the duty of confidentiality," he said.
He ruled that one of the articles at the centre of the case had "trashed" Campbell "in a highly offensive and hurtful manner". Of the "chocolate soldier" phrase, he said he well understood that Campbell found the phrase "hurtful and considered it racist".
He decided confidentiality applied as much to therapy received by an alternative means as by professional medical input.
"In my judgment, clearly the publication of information about details of her therapy in regularly attending meetings of Narcotics Anonymous was to Miss Campbell’s detriment," he said.
Rival media are interpreting this as a form of invasion of her privacy.
Awarding the damages, he said he was satisfied she had suffered a significant amount of distress and injury to feelings by the "unjustified revelation of the details of her therapy". But, apart from that she could not complain, his ruling said, when: "She has shown herself over the years lacking in frankness and veracity with the media and manipulative and selective in what she has chosen to reveal about herself."
He was satisfied she had "lied on oath" about the reasons she gave for being rushed to hospital in Gran Canaria. "And I have doubts about the accuracy of her accounts of the assaults on her assistants," he added.
The NUJ said it was "horrified" at the implications of the judgment. "If ever there was a case where the invasion of privacy was justified in the public interest this was surely it," said Tim Gopsill, editor of the Journalist magazine. "The Mirror should appeal and that appeal should succeed."
By Jean Morgan and Roger Pearson