Gay website faces NoW legal threat over Cole 'real picture' story

By Dominic Ponsford

The website at the heart of the Ashley Cole "gay orgy" row has been warned of possible legal action by the News of the World.

The tabloid is being sued by England footballer Cole over two stories about un-named Premiership footballers being involved in gay orgies. Cole’s lawyers are suing because they say he has been identified on websites, particularly Pink News, as being one of the men referred to in the NoW stories.

Cole has filed writs for privacy, libel and harassment against The Sun and the News of the World — but not PinkNews.co.uk.

Now News Group Newspapers has written to the website saying that it reserves the right to "issue proceedings and/or commence proceedings under the Civil Liability Contribution Act 1978".

This means News Group could seek to recover money from PinkNews.co.uk if it is sued successfully by Cole.

The website’s editor, Ben Cohen, said: "I do not see what the News of the World will gain from involving us in the case. All we did was point out that their pixelated photograph was the same as one publicly available on the ChoiceFM website."

PinkNews.co.uk is being represented by lawyers Stock Fraser Cukier on a nowin, no-fee basis.

Cohen said his website would "probably face closure" if it was hit with a substantial damages claim.

He added: "This would be a shame because PinkNews.co.uk, as the first gay news agency, has quickly gained a strong following within the gay and straight community."

A News of the World spokesman said of the latest development: "The irony of this case is that those who did not identify Cole as being allegedly involved have been sued.

Those who did, and continue to name him, have not.

"The newspapers’ liability ends with its publications and does not extend to subsequent publications by others.

Liability for damage caused by website publications lies with the website publishers.

"This case demonstrates the wider danger of uninhibited publication on the internet where there is a reckless disregard for the defamation laws of this country."

■ Ashley Cole’s lawyers, TSS Law, have launched an online bid to gather evidence for their unusual libel case against The Sun and the News of the World.

Through the website www.ashleycolesurvey.

com they are trying to find out the extent to which readers looked at the stories about un-named gay footballers and then looked on the internet to link them with Ashley Cole.

The website asks whether people read the News of the World on 12 and 19 February, The Sun on 13, 16 and 18 February and the Daily Star on 21 February and 3 March.

It also asks whether people used the internet to find out more and whether they would be prepared to be a witness in a civil case.

■ The Daily Star has apologised over its 21 February article headlined "Gay Footie Stars Named On Net". The Star said that story was about "scandalous and perverted conduct by an England footballer".

The apology said: "We referred to publications on the internet which identified Ashley Cole as being involved. The Daily Star entirely accepts that Ashley Cole was not involved in any way in this kind of conduct… We hope that Ashley makes a speedy return to fitness."

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