David and
Victoria Beckham are suing the News of the World for libel in relation
to an article published on 12 September 2004, “Posh and Becks on the
Rocks”, which the Beckhams say meant that for financial reasons they
were cynically and hypocritically trying to convince the public that
their failed marriage was perfect.

To bolster the newspaper’s
justification defence, it sought specific disclosure of eight
categories of documents from the Beckhams. In turn, the Beckhams sought
the disclosure of taped interviews between The News of the World’s
journalists and the Beckhams’

former nanny, Abbie Gibson.

standard disclosure has taken place, a party to an action can apply for
more specific disclosure if it believes that the other party has failed
to comply with the disclosure obligations. The court may direct a party
to search for further documents that may help the other party’s case.
However, such specific disclosure will only be awarded if it is

The News of the World sought extremely wide further
disclosure: for example, all documents relating to the Beckhams’ PR

However, the Beckhams said that there were no documents
which showed that they had presented a false image, and Mr Justice Gray
agreed. He also did not order specific disclosure in relation to the
wide-ranging request for documents about why David Beckham had not sued
Rebecca Loos or the newspaper for alleging that he had had an affair
with her; his move to Madrid; the arrangements which the Beckhams have
with a paparazzo; the termination of the Beckhams’

contract with agents SFX; and about the Beckhams’ skiing holiday in Courcheval.

the newspaper did manage to obtain some limited specific disclosure.
The Beckhams have to make enquiries of their former agent and/or
Vodafone about the use of certain mobile telephone numbers and whether
they showed that text messages had been sent by David Beckham to Ms
Loos and another alleged lover, Ms Canadas, a Spanish supermodel. The
Judge also directed the Beckhams to try to find out from those involved
in the filming of The Real Beckhams, a fly-on-the-wall documentary
broadcast in December 2003, about any parts of the unbroadcast footage
which showed the couple arguing and screaming and, therefore, tensions
within their marriage.

The Beckhams also made an application for
disclosure of all the tape recordings of the News of the World
journalists’ interviews with Ms Gibson. The newspaper had previously
said that its journalists had made no notes and just relied on the tape
recordings of what the nanny had to say. The newspaper was prepared to
disclose those parts of the tape recordings which had been published,
but said that as the rest had not been published they could not have
hurt the Beckhams’ feelings, and that they were not disclosable. The
Judge disagreed. It was necessary to see the full extent of the tape
recordings to see whether the Beckhams’ treatment of their former nanny
or any lies told by the Beckhams should be exposed in the public
interest, releasing both the nanny and the newspaper from any duty of
confidence which otherwise might have applied. Accordingly, disclosure
of the tape recordings was directed.

Jennifer McDermott is a partner, media and public law at Addleshaw Goddard

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