Sunday Mirror journalist Simon Wright – arrested in South Africa after a fan intruded into the England team’s dressing room – is to go on trial this weekend.
The hearing has been set for two days – July 10 and 11, the day of the World Cup final.
Wright made a brief appearance at Cape Town’s special World Cup court yesterday, where senior prosecutor Billy Downer announced the dates.
Downer said he hoped the trial would be over in time for the cup final on Sunday evening.
Wright, who is on bail, faces charges of attempting to defeat the ends of justice and breaching the Immigration Act.
Downer, a deputy director of public prosecutions in the Western Cape, told magistrate Joe Magele: “Hopefully, we’ll be able to finish the matter before the World Cup (final) starts.”
Wright’s lawyer, William Booth, told the court he wanted to record publicly that there was no charge of conspiracy or collusion between his client and the soccer fan, Pavlos Joseph.
Speaking outside court, he went on: “There was never any evidence of conspiracy between my client, Mr Simon Wright, and Mr Joseph.
“In fact, they met after the incident, as a result of a telephone call made to the Sunday Mirror by Mr Joseph’s sister. So this whole issue … has no basis whatsoever.”
He added: “The evidence, in fact, confirms what Mr Wright says.”
Booth said he did not believe there was any basis for continuing with the charges.
Asked if Joseph might be called as a witness, he said it would be “a bit difficult” getting him to Cape Town for the weekend.
“We’ll just have to see how it goes,” he said. “If we have to call him, and we have to bring an application for the matter to be adjourned and for my client to return to the UK in the meantime, we’ll do that.”
Joseph paid a £65 admission of guilt fine last week for being in a designated area without accreditation and as a result the charges against him were dropped.