Coe failed in his bid to prevent the Sundays splashing his sex secrets
The Sunday Mirror was literally forced to “stop the presses” on Saturday night as Sebastian Coe tried to cover up revelations that he had conducted a 10-year-affair.
The Mail on Sunday, which also ran the story, had to push back its production deadline by an hour because of Coe’s High Court injunction.
The Tory peer failed in his legal bid and is now likely to face a bill running into tens of thousands for the disruption caused to both papers.
The failure of his injunction has also been interpreted as a victory for freedom of the press over public figures’ desire for privacy. It comes barely a month after the House of Lords ruled that the Daily Mirror did commit a breach of confidence by publishing a picture of the model Naomi Campbell outside a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.
The Sunday Mirror and The Mail on Sunday co-operated to pay Vanessa Lander a five-figure sum to tell all about her affair with the former athlete and married father of four. The story revealed how Coe, who is head of London’s 2012 Olympic bid, paid for his mistress to have an abortion.
Journalists from both papers left messages for Coe on Saturday afternoon which he failed to respond to.
Then, at 4pm, his lawyer, Martin Cruddace, from Shilling and Lom, called both papers to say he was seeking an emergency injunction to stop publication on the grounds of breach of confidence.
At 6pm Mr Justice Fulford convened a hearing at the High Court and at 7.30pm both papers were ordered to suspend publication of the Lander interview.
At the Sunday Mirror, 150,000 copies had already been printed with the affair story on the front and two inside pages. The printers were told to stop the presses and delivery lorries which had already set off had to wait in laybys pending the judge’s decision.
The Mirror team had an alternative front page prepared and nine different inside pages ready in case the ruling went against them.
After an hour-long wait, a text message came through from the court that the decision had gone in their favour.
Judge Fulford decided that Lander’s right to free expression, and the newspapers’ right to publish, outweighed Coe’s right to privacy.
The Mail on Sunday has a later offstone time than the Sunday Mirror and went to press with an alternative front page following the judge’s first interim order. After the injunction failed, the MoS changed later editions to include the Coe affair on the front with a double-page spread inside.
Sunday Mirror deputy editor Richard Wallace said: “The Naomi Campbell decision implied it was the end of the world for newspapers, but this has drawn an important line in the sand.
“Lord Coe is a public figure of some repute and it is right and proper that we should be allowed to expose hypocrisy in public life.
“If you are a public figure, especially in the political arena, you have a duty to conduct your private affairs in an honourable fashion. It is clear in this case Lord Coe did not.”
Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright said: “It’s a very important balancing act in law between confidentiality and the right to freedom of expression and I do think that if someone is aware that an individual in a position of public respect has acted very badly in their private lives, in particular towards their marriage, people should have a right to know that.”
By Dominic Ponsford