UK

Rio Ferdinand story 'helped woman move on'

Rio Ferdinand
Image caption Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is a married father of three

A woman who sold a story claiming she had an affair with footballer Rio Ferdinand did so for her "emotional development", a court has heard.

The Sunday Mirror's barrister said Carly Storey's aim was to help herself "recover from the relationship".

The Manchester United player is seeking substantial damages from MGN Ltd for misuse of private information.

It has not been disputed that the pair were once close, but Ferdinand says they hadn't met for six years.

Gavin Millar QC told the court: "This is not the typical 'kiss and tell' case whereby the claimant is asking the court to restrain disclosure of a one-night stand or a casual fling.

"For over a decade, she has kept these experiences to herself whilst the claimant has in the meantime liberally placed a mass of information about his own life in the public domain for substantial commercial and personal gain."

Ferdinand has branded the April 2010 article - My Affair with England Captain Rio - as a "gross invasion of my privacy".

The 32-year-old defender and his wife, Rebecca, have three children.

Competing rights

The case hinges on whether the newspaper was justified in publishing its story because the public interest was such that its Article 10 right to freedom of expression was of a greater importance than Ferdinand's Article 8 privacy right under the Human Rights Act.

The story, which was produced in court in a redacted form, said that Ferdinand ended the relationship within days of being handed the England captain's armband in February 2010.

Mr Millar, representing MGN, said Ms Storey - who received £16,000 for the story - was entitled to correct "the false public image that the claimant has created for himself".

The defence said it was this "glaring inconsistency" between Ferdinand's public image and private life that made the story of true public interest.

He added that there were many reports in the public domain about Ferdinand's "adulterous behaviour" and that the footballer had publicly admitted to cheating, but had never taken any court action over those claims.

"In these circumstances," said Mr Millar, "it is difficult to see how any significant distress or damage could have been caused to the claimant by the publication of the facts in this article."

'No public interest'

Making his closing speech, Ferdinand's barrister, Hugh Tomlinson QC, said it was "really a very simple and straightforward case" and that his client had a right to privacy and family life, despite his public position.

He added that the story held little genuine public interest: "This is a case about a private relationship being published in a tabloid newspaper in circumstances when, in reality, there is no contribution to any debate of general interest.

"There is an attempt to somehow suggest it is contributing to a debate about the England football captaincy.

"We know, as a matter of fact, the article made no such contribution in the sense it was not taken up by anybody and did not form part of any such debate."

Mr Tomlinson said it was well known that Ferdinand was "not a man with a spotless past", but to say "anything goes when the private life of a footballer is in issue, is manifestly a fallacious argument."

Mr Tomlinson also said Ferdinand should be awarded £50,000 in damages.

He told the court: "This is not a trivial case. This is a case of a particularly important nature in the sense that it is not often that someone who is written about in such a way in the press has the courage to take them on in a court case.

"If the court was to award a small sum of damages it would, in the circumstances, be entirely inappropriate."

Ferdinand told the court on Tuesday that he had felt "angry and upset" when he heard that Ms Storey had been paid for the story.

He also denied the accusation that he was bringing the action to protect his reputation for financial reasons.

The court heard that the pair first met as teenagers in the 1990s and had at one time been close, but had drifted apart even before Mr Ferdinand moved to Leeds in 2000.

At the time of the article it was claimed the pair had not met for a number of years but occasionally exchanged text messages.

Ms Storey was not in court to hear MGN close its case, although Mr Justice Nicol was told she was due to return to Heathrow from abroad late last night.

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