A footballer who had an affair with reality TV star Imogen Thomas has made an application to search emails and text messages sent by employees of The Sun to see if they breached the terms of an injunction banning him from being identified.
Yesterday Mr Justice Eady revealed that a privacy injunction protecting the married footballer was being upheld revealing evidence that he may have been blackmailed by the woman, Imogen Thomas. She denies this and said she was “stunned” by the claim.
The initial injunction was made against The Sun and News Group newspapers but covers all publications.
In the part of yesterday’s hearing which was held in public, lawyer for the footballer Hugh Tomlinson QC made an application to search emails and text messages sent by Sun employees.
He also sought an order disclosing emails and texts sent by Sun columnist, and former editor of the paper, Kelvin MacKenzie relating to the injunction.
This follows comments made by MacKenzie on Radio 4’s Today programme.
On the programme MacKenzie noted that he has been flooded with emails form readers asking for the names of the many high-profile individuals who currently have injunctions protecting their privacy and he said: ‘Sometimes I give [the names], sometimes I don’tâ€¦”
The footballer’s lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC yesterday told the High Court: ‘He is there telling the world that he breaks court orders whenever he feels like it.”
News Group Newspapers lawyer Richard Spearman QC said that the order was ‘unnecessary”, ‘unprecedented”, ‘disproportionate’and ‘a fishing expedition”.
The judge reserved judgment on the applications and said he would announce his decision later.
In his judgment upholding the injunction Eady revealed that Thomas had contacted the footballer in March and he concluded that she was planning to sell the story of their affair to a newspaper.
Eady explained how Thomas had told the footballer she ‘wanted’, or ‘needed’, a payment from him of £50,000.”
He said: ‘It was against this background that he agreed (he says with some reluctance) to meet her in a hotel where he was staying in early April of this year to discuss her demands.
“Although he had no wish to meet, he eventually agreed because he was concerned that she would go to the newspapers if he refused.”
Eady said the footballer believed he “may well have been set up” so that photographs could be taken of Thomas going to hotels.
He said the footballer had started to “smell a rat”.
“On April 12 the [footballer[ sent Ms Thomas a message to say that he did not want any further contact with her,” said the judge.
“Then, in something of a quandary, he thought better of it and sent her a further message the following day.
“This was to convey that he might be willing to pay her some money after all.
“By this time, however, she made it clear that she was looking for £100,000.
“She later texted him to say there was a journalist outside her house.
“The evidence before the court at that point, therefore, appeared to strongly suggest that the [footballer] was being blackmailed (although that is not how he put it himself).
“I hasten to add, as is obvious, that I cannot come to any final conclusion about it at this stage.”
On 13 April Thomas told the footballer that The Sun was thinking of publishing a story to the effect that they had an affair for six months – with photographs of her at or near hotels.
“It seems … that The Sun was ready to take advantage of these prearranged meetings in order to be able to put forward the claim that it was The Sun which had found him ‘romping with a busty Big Brother babe’,” added the judge.
Thomas said in a statement: “I’ve read the judgment and am stunned by how I’m portrayed. Yet again, my name and my reputation are being trashed while the man I had a relationship with is able to hide. What’s more, I can’t even defend myself because I’ve been gagged. Where’s the fairness in this? What about my reputation? If this is the way privacy injunctions are supposed to work then there’s something seriously wrong with the law.
“I’m even accused of trying to blackmail this man – That’s outrageous. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“I repeat I am distraught I can’t defend my reputation because I am gagged.”