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Monday, June 26, 2006 

News of the Screws and Sun pay Ashley Cole £100,000 over "gay orgy" claims.

Well, who would have thought it? Despite the Daily Star apologising months back and no doubt saving itself a hefty amount in damages, the Sun and Screws decided against doing so, only to now have to pay Cole £100,000.

The difference with the case is that Cole was never actually directly named by the articles in the Screws and the Sun until he started legal proceedings. The original stories, over two weeks in the Screws, did however drop hints while coyly describing those involved as "two Premiership footballers and a well-known DJ", who had allegedly indulged in gay sex acts, using a mobile phone. The name of the other footballer supposedly involved has never come out. Cole's however did, especially when the Sun ran an obviously suggestive headline, "Ashley's got a good taste in rings", a non-story about his engagement to gorgeous pouting hideously tattooed wasp chewer Cheryl Tweedy, and when the website PinkNews.co.uk uncovered the un-digitally altered photograph, which clearly showed Cole and DJ Ian Thompson, aka Masterstepz.

At the time the printing of the articles seemed like an incredibly stupid decision, purely on the basis that England were in the World Cup and any stories about those who were going to play in it that were negative were unlikely to go down well with patriotic readers. That the Screws then only alluded to those involved when it obviously knew full well who it was was a typical piece of tabloid cowardice. There'd rather smear people who are entirely innocent of any of their allegations and worry about the consequences later, as has been evidenced over a number of years.

What remains to be seen now is whether Smears International try and recoup some of their losses by attempting a claim against PinkNews, which did the most "damage" to their stories, or rather, published what they were too cowardly to. They might try attempting to claim that the original reports were not about Cole, although proving that will for obvious reasons be difficult. The editors might instead have to live this one down, and no doubt face the wrath of Murdoch for wasting his money. That makes two footballers that the Sun has had to grovel to in recent months, after it wrongly claimed Rooney had hit his girlfriend. Whether Sven will have similar luck with his legal action against the Screws over his encounter with the fake sheikh remains to be seen.

A new reader writes: Who is this "fake sheikh", and do you happen to have any photographs of this clearly brilliant journalist who managed such a tremendous scoop?

Well, a new reader, his name is Mahzer Mahmood, although whether that's his real name or not is unclear. He also at times goes by the moniker Pervaiz Khan, and here are a couple of snaps from his otherwise threadbare family album:

In another tabloid triumph, the Observer reported yesterday that the removal of sex offenders and paedophiles from hostels close to schools was something approaching a disaster. John Reid acted, entirely of his own volition, after the News of the Screws told him it was about to go to print exposing 11 such hostels as containing paedophiles, as well as naming the locations. Reid instead groveled, had the offenders removed, and promised the Screws that he was going to have a good old think about introducing "Sarah's Law", honest guv. Apparently the offenders moved are now under far less supervision and some are being held in bed and breakfast accommodation, which is clearly a good idea. Many homeless families are usually put in the same places when there is nowhere else for them to go, so instead of looking over into the playground they'll be able to... well, it doesn't bear thinking about. Congratulations then to the fearless protectors of children at Wapping!

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