The Glasgow-based Sunday Herald became the first UK newspaper to name the footballer at the centre of a high-profile privacy gagging row yesterday.
The paper apparently made use of a loophole in the law which mean the injunction covering the identity of the married Premiership star – referred to as CTB – does not apply to Scottish newspapers. Scotland has its own rules when it comes to media law and its own precedures covering defamation and privacy.
The Herald printed a picture of the man – who is alleged to have had an affair with reality TV star Imogen Thomas – on its front page, only blacking out his eyes with the word ‘censored”.
Underneath the paper wrote: “Everyone knows this is the footballer accused of using the courts to keep allegations of a sexual affair secret.”
In an editorial, it said: “We should point out immediately that we are not accusing the footballer concerned of any misdeed. Whether the allegations against him are true or not has no relevance to this debate. The issue is one of Freedom of Information and of a growing argument in favour of more restrictive privacy laws.”
Attorney General Dominic Grieve is apparently not taking any action against the Newsquest-owned paper. A spokesman for his office said: “The Attorney is aware of the publication in Scotland which has attracted attention. He has received no complaint or referral from any parties or by any court.”
The move comes after news on Friday that lawyers for the footballer have launched proceeedings against social networking site Twitter and ‘persons unknown’to identify users of Twitter who have breached the injunction by naming him.
Breaking an injunction is a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison.
The action is apparently a bid to find out if frustrated journalists are behind a campaign on Twitter which has gone viral and led to tens of thousands of users of the site Tweeting the identity of the footballer.
His lawyers Schillings said: “An application has been made to obtain limited information concerning the unlawful use of Twitter by a small number of individuals who may have breached a court order.”
Last week it emerged that Schillings had made an application to search the emails and text messages of employees of The Sun to see if they had breached the terms of the injunction by naming the footballer.
In particular they have sought an order disclosing emails and texts sent by Sun columnist, and former editor of the paper, Kelvin MacKenzie relating to the injunction.
This followed comments made by MacKenzie on Radio 4’s Today programme.
On the programme MacKenzie noted that he had been flooded with emails form readers asking for the names of the many high-profile individuals who currently have injunctions protecting their privacy and he said: ‘Sometimes I give [the names], sometimes I don’tâ€¦”
In a judgment last week upholding the injunction – which was initially granted against The Sun last month – Mr Justice Eady revealed the allegation that Thomas was effectively blackmailing the man.
She had apparently told him that she needed £100,000 otherwise she would take her story to The Sun.
Thomas in turn has said that this allegation is untrue and threatened to sue the footballer if he repeats it.