Sky Sports News presenter Kirsty Gallacher is suing The Sun for libel damages of up to £100,000 over a story headlined: “Thirsty Kirsty TV collapse“.
Her lawyers argued that the article wrongly gave the impression that she was drunk on air, or that she lied in saying that she slurred her words because she was unwell.
Gallacher is also seeking an injunction to prevent the publication of more stories on the matter and says the story was also a breach of privacy.
Solicitors, acting on her behalf, claimed the Sun’s story had been written for “click bait” and that The Sun had failed to give them the requested two hours notice to allow them to file an injunction preventing publication.
The Sun’s story had the sub headline: “THAT’S A SLUR It’s exhaustion & a virus not booze, says telly girl”.
It claimed fans had accused the presenter, 40, of slurring her words on TV and pointed out she had been on out with friends the night before, which she posted about on Twitter.
It said Gallacher had collapsed in a corridor at Sky’s studio during an advert break after 18 minutes of an hour-long presenting “stint” and had to be taken to hospital.
It quoted sources close to Gallacher as saying she was “suffering from exhaustion and a virus” and “doesn’t remember being in the ambulance”.
The story was published online on 22 December and in print the next day.
Russells Solicitors, acting on Gallacher’s behalf, filed a claim for libel damages, breach of privacy and breach of the Data Protection Act on 23 December against News Group Newspapers.
They claimed the Sun’s article prompted numerous other news outlets to repeat the claims and that it now appeared among the top results of a Google search against Gallacher’s name.
They said it had caused “serious harm” to her reputation, telling the High Court Gallacher had been “subjected to enormous online goading and ridicule” through reader comments and tweets as a result of the article.
“It is reasonable to infer that the claimant was also subject to similar goading and ridicule amongst members of the public offline,” they added.
“In addition to having a reputation for being a professional at work, the claimant also has a reputation as being a fit and health conscious individual (which she is) and, in the circumstances, the publication of the article seriously harmed and damaged her reputation and is likely to continue to cause serious harm to it in future.”
The solicitors also claimed The Sun had breached Gallacher’s privacy by publishing information about her health.
They said she had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” regarding this information and that its publication breached her rights under Article 8 of the European Conventions of Human Rights.
They also said they had sent an email to the Sun ahead of the article being published to clarify that Gallacher had been “taken unwell at work and attended hospital so that the cause could be investigated”.
The solicitors said they shared information with the newsdesk about Gallacher’s hospital test results, which showed she had no alcohol in her system, but that these had been “expressly provided off the record” despite being included in the story as a quote from a “spokesman for Kirsty”.
They said the publication of this information had resulted in Gallacher suffering “extreme distress and embarrassment”.
The writ also claimed the publication of Gallacher’s “sensitive personal data” represented a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 and a “misuse of her private information”.
The Sun published a follow-up story on 28 December 2016, headlined: “Kirsty Gallacher tells fans she’s feeling much better after shock corridor collapse just before Christmas”.
In support of a claim for up to £100,000 in damages, Gallacher’s solicitors listed the following features:
- The Sun did not respond to en email showing medical evidence proved Gallacher “had not been inebriated while at work but rather that she was ill and had to go to hospital”
- The article was published just before Christmas and “ruined what the claimant had intended and wanted to be a special and relaxing time with her family and friends”
- The Sun “knew that the claimant was in a vulnerable state, having been in hospital” (she was said to have been bed-ridden for six days after her hospitalisation) “however published the article knowing that it was likely to have a devastating impact on her (as it did)”
- Gallacher “prides herself on having a reputation as being a fit and health-conscious individual. She has made a fitness DVD and participated in numerous media interviews with newspapers in this regard. The publication of the story was therefore particularly damaging, distressing and upsetting to her.”
- There was no public interest in the story
- The allegations were false because Gallacher “was not inebriated during the programme but ill”
- Claims Gallacher was drunk only appeared after and as a result of the Sun article, contrary to the suggestion made in the article
- The article was published “purely for commercial reasons to increase the Defendant’s profits and provide ‘click bait’ for its online website” including use of “the sensationalist headline referring to ‘Thirsty Kirsty’”.The Sun declined to comment.