An injunction was varied last night after lawyers failed to suppress a story about David Beckham’s alleged foul-mouthed response to being snubbed for a knighthood.
The injunction stopped Times Newspapers from reporting on leaked emails which were part of a cache of 18.6m documents leaked to Der Spiegel Newspaper in Germany via an individual called “John” and his Football Leaks website.
The Sunday Times has been working on the emails relating to Beckham as part of a cross-border investigation by the European Investigative Collaborations network involving 60 journalists in 12 countries.
Times Newspapers is understood to have been initially injuncted by lawyers acting for David Beckham’s PR company in December.
This week it published a story saying: “The Sunday Times has been gagged by an injunction preventing it from reporting details about a celebrity’s personal and professional life. The judge anonymised the individual using initials. The newspaper is in legal proceedings.”
Romania-based website The Black Sea published the story in full on Friday, and The Sun had it on its front page on Saturday.
Other UK newspapers chose to follow up the story because the gagging order was limited to Times Newspapers.
Press Gazette understands that other titles were made aware that the information was considered private because it was illegally hacked. But they appear to have to taken the view that because it had been publish in Europe it was in the public domain.
The Times today reports that the injunction was changed last night allowing it to report on the matter for the first time.
Press Gazette understands that the injunction was varied to allow The Times to report matters which are already in the public domain.
The Times reports that the alleged theft of emails from Beckham’s PR advisers has led to a criminal investigation by Portuguese police. It is also reported that the PR company was subject to a blackmail demand in order to keep the emails secret.
The emails alleged that Beckham called the honours committee a “bunch of cunts” when he was overlooked for a knighthood.
The Times reports that HM Revenue and Customers raised concerns about Beckham’s tax affairs.
The Sunday Times published six stories in December based on the Football Leaks cache, including reports that Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had been fined for failing to pay tax in Spain and that Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli was offered a £1m bonus if he refrained from violent and abusive conduct on the pitch.
In December a Spanish judge brought an injunction ordering 12 European newspapers to stop publishing stories about alleged tax fraud by professional footballers based on the Football Leaks documents cache.