Millionaire footballer Ashley Cole in no-win no-fee legal bid

Millionaire footballer Ashley Cole is the latest wealthy celebrity to take advantage of the ‘access to justice’no-win, no-fee media-law regime to sue news organisations.

He is suing the publishers of The Sun and The Daily Mirror over stories of his alleged extra-marital affairs, which he says have breached his privacy.

The Chelsea footballer follows in the footsteps of Sharon Stone and Cherie Blair, who have also sued newspapers using Condition Fee Agreements.

The CFA rules were created to allow less well-off people to have access to the libel courts. But they are increasingly being used by the wealthy.

CFAs ensure that the stakes for publishers are far higher because £500-an-hour libel lawyers can charge a 100 per cent fee uplift to the losing side if the action is successful.

Unusually for a very rich individual, Cole has also taken out After the Event Insurance, costing tens of thousands of pounds, to cover him in the event that he loses his case and has to pay the other side’s fees. If he wins his case, or the newspapers settle, the cost of the insurance is added to their fees.

Marcus Partington, group legal director of Trinity Mirror, said: ‘Ashley Cole has gone one step better than those rich people who have preceded him.

‘Not content with using the threat of a 100 per cent success fee, courtesy of a CFA, he has also taken out (but not actually paid for, of course) ATE insurance to bring pressure on us and News Group.

‘He needs neither a CFA nor ATE, but until the Government stops rich people and their lawyers doing this, such behaviour – which, of course, has nothing to do with ‘access to justice’ – will flourish.”

Cole is seeking damages of up to £200,000 for eight stories which appeared in The Daily and Sunday Mirror, alleging he had affairs with three women.

Cole, who is married to singer Cheryl Tweedy of Girls Aloud, says that information in the stories about his private life was confidential, and an unjustified infringement of his right to privacy.

He also suing News Group Newspapers for up to £200,000 over 12 stories which appeared in The Sun and Sun Online about his alleged relationships with four women.

He accuses the women of infringing his rights in ‘a flagrant, self-serving and unilateral manner’and says publication of stories about his sex life was wrongful and a breach of confidence, an infringement of his right to privacy and a misuse of private information.

Press Gazette is campaigning against the current CFA regime as the Government considers proposals to reform it.

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