The Sun today apologised in open court and agreed to pay comedian Russell Brand “substantial damages” over a story claiming he had “cheated” on girlfriend Jemima Khan.
John Kelly, from Harbottle and Lewis, told the High Court today that the dispute between Brand (pictured above: Reuters) and the tabloid was over a 17 November front-page story Sun on Sunday story headlined: “RUSSELL CHEATED ON HIS JEMIMA WITH ME”.
Kelly said: “The claimant is in a relationship with his girlfriend, Jemima Khan and has spoken publicly of his love and commitment towards her…
“The article falsely claimed that the claimant had deliberately deceived the general public, as well as his girlfriend Jemima Khan, by falsely proclaiming that he was being faithful to Ms Khan when in fact he was repeatedly cheating on her by having sex with Sophie Coady during a four-month fling with Ms Coady whilst he was in a committed relationship with Ms Khan.”
The Sun ran the story, which also carried the headlined “32H model’s shock for Khan”, across pages one, four and five.
Kelly said: “Given the prominence devoted to the story in such a high selling newspaper, it was inevitable that the article was picked up and repeated in other media as in fact it was.
“The allegations are entirely without foundation and of course they were distressing, hurtful and damaging to the claimant.”
Kelly said that Brand wrote to The Sun the day the story was published i and “informed the newspaper that the claims were false, that they should be withdrawn and that an apology should be published”.
Kelly said that Brand’s “distress was increased as a result of the defendant’s initial refusal to remove the article from the newspapers’ website, or to withdraw the allegations and publish an apology".
He said: “After the newspaper refused to apologise Mr Brand issued proceedings for libel.”
The court heard that The Sun now accepts the story was “totally untrue and defamatory” and that it “should never have been published”.
The Sun has promised not to repeat the story and apologised to Brand and Khan for “the distress and embarrassment the article has caused”.
It has also agreed to publish an apology and pay Brand “substantial damages” as well as his legal costs.
Brand has said he will pay the damages to “diverse, just and decent causes”.
He has previously said on Twitter that he will be making a donation to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.
Jeffrey Smele, appearing for The Sun, said: “Through me the defendant sincerely apologises to the claimant for the distress and embarrassment this article has caused. It accepts that the allegations are untrue and ought never to have been published."
A dozen of the UK's leading legal minds will explain what the Defamation Act 2013 means for journalists and the media at a unique conference being organised by Press Gazette in London on 19 June. The cost of defending a libel action at trial can be more than £1m, tickets for Defamation 2014 start from £89+VAT. Follow the links to book direct at the event page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your place and arrange payment within 28 days by invoice.