Reporter who posed as steward is charged with theft

When a Sunday Mirror journalist penetrated the defences of Old Trafford to work as a steward, the paper described security at the Manchester United ground as a “shambles”.

But it didn’t mention that reporter Martin Coutts was arrested by police as a result of his investigation.

According to Manchester Police, he was arrested during the game and was later charged with pitch encroachment and theft of an identity card.

Coutts described, in the 25 April edition of the Sunday Mirror, how he queued up with the other stewards, was issued with a bright yellow jacket and was told to frisk fans as they arrived at the gates.

The paper described the incident as a “massive security breach”.

However, a Manchester United spokesman said: “A man was detained for impersonating a steward. This person was detected by internal security checks. He was arrested and taken to a local police station to be interviewed.”

It is understood that the reason the Sunday Mirror did not mention Coutts’ arrest in its report was because it did not result from the ground’s security procedures. It was therefore seen as being irrelevant to the story.

And the paper has hit out at the Crown Prosecution Service for bringing charges against its reporter over an investigation that it said was in the public interest.

Richard Wallace, deputy editor of the Sunday Mirror, said: “This is a classic case of shooting the messenger. Martin was conducting a legitimate investigation into a major security lapse at Old Trafford. Coming, as it did, amid fears of a suicide-bomb attack at the ground, it was clearly in the public interest to expose the shambles at Manchester United.

“We are very disappointed that our reporter is facing these charges but are confident the CPS will conclude that the case should be dropped.”

Coutts has been bailed to appear at Trafford Magistrates’ Court.

By Dominic Ponsford

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