The Daily Mirror is heading for a High Court battle with Leicester City footballer Danny Simpson over a story alleging he had an affair with pop star Tulisa whilst his girlfriend was pregnant.
A High Court judge had struck out the Mirror’s defence of justification (that the claimed meaning was true), saying there were no reasonable grounds to argue this.
But the Court of Appeal has now ruled that this defence can proceed.
The High Court earlier ruled that the story carried the following meaning: “By entering a romantic relationship with the celebrity Tulisa Contostavlos the claimant was unfaithful to his loyal partner Stephanie Ward, with whom he was in a long-term and committed relationship, living with their daughter as a family; he did so despite Ms Ward having sacrificed her legal career to have his children, and being, as he knew, pregnant with their next child; and by doing so he callously destroyed his relationship with Ms Ward and broke up an established family unit which was soon to be joined by the child they were expecting.”
Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Laws said: “The meaning having been found, it remains open to [Mirror publisher] MGN to raise arguments as to the intensity of the libel’s sting.
“I accept, of course, that in some instances the meaning of words and their defamatory sting (and its intensity) ineluctably go together; but not always. Just as in some areas of life there are different views among reasonable people of moral and immoral conduct, so there may be different views as to the gravity or otherwise of the sting of a libel.”
Simpson issued libel claims in 2014 over articles which appeared in The Sun and the Daily Mirror in November 2012.
The Sun was also sued by the singer, full name Tulisa Contostavlos.
According to a claim form, both newspapers published interviews with Ward in which she was said to have branded Contostavlos a “homewrecker”.
The footballer said the reports had led to him being taunted by fans.