The Daily Mail Reports on Belle De Jour and Sunday Times Apology Via a Time Warp

Every so often one gets confused reading the newspapers. Some things are reported which are undoubtedly false. Some things are mistaken. Sometimes the writer of the article seems not to understand what they are writing about.

And, with that preamble, I am confused by a story today reported in the Mail Online. Regular readers will know that the Mail Online is far from my favourite news outlet, although, as it is one of the most “popular” news websites in the world, I suspect those in charge are not bothered what I think.

Today’s story refers to the former “call girl” who went by the nom de plume of “Belle de Jour” and whose exploits were recounted in a blog and then in book form. She was then revealed to be Dr Brooke Magnanti, a research scientist. Her role was played in the TV adaptation of her writing, by Billie Piper.

This story is of interest to this blog because of the legal actions which have been raised as a result of “disagreement” between Dr Magnanti and her former boyfriend, Owen Morris. And this is where the confusion appears.

I read, many years ago, in a book on journalism that the goal of a journalist writing an article was to leave the reader with greater awareness, understanding and knowledge of a story after reading the piece than before. (I am sure readers of this blog sometimes feel I do not manage that either, but I am not a journalist!)

The Mail today reports the story under the snappy headline “Ex-boyfriend of call-girl blogger Belle de Jour wins High Court apology after she falsely accused him of threatening to expose her identity for money”. The full piece can be read here. The Mail says:-

The ex-boyfriend of Belle de Jour, the blogger whose life as a call girl inspired a TV series, has spoken of his relief after winning a High Court apology over false statements she made about him.

Former RAF officer Owen Morris said Brooke Magnanti, the former scientist behind the pen-name, had ‘destroyed’ his reputation by accusing him in the Sunday Times of threatening to expose her identity for money. She also claimed his behaviour towards her had become so threatening that she had once taken out a restraining order on him.

Mr Morris, 38, said: ‘I am glad that the truth behind the Belle de Jour media machine is finally starting to come out. The grim reality is diametrically opposed to the marketed myth.’

Tomorrow, the Sunday Times is due to make a public apology at the High Court, confirming the accusations it carried were baseless.”

That all seems straightforward, doesn’t it? It would seem clear that Dr Magnanti has lost, and Mr Morris has won.

But close reading confirms that in fact the case was not against Dr Magnanti, but only against the Sunday Times.

A quick bit of research also reveals that, on 28th February 2012, the Sunday Times published an apology to Mr Morris:-

In articles published in 2010 about the author who blogged under the pseudonym Belle de Jour (Life without the mask of Belle de Jour, News Review, March 28, Coming clean brought Belle de Jour death threats, News, March 28 and Witter: Brooke Magnanti, Magazine, November 21), we stated that a restraining order had been obtained against Flt. Lt. Morris, that he had made threats of violence against Belle de Jour, and that he had threatened to reveal her identity to the media for financial gain. We accept our allegations were incorrect and we apologise for the distress, damage and embarrassment caused to Flt Lt Morris. We have paid him damages and his legal costs.

The apology specifically refers to issues mentioned in the Mail piece. How can this be so?

It seems that the options are as follows:-

1                    Mr Morris did not accept the apology, nor payment of damages and costs, and elected to proceed with his High Court action. That seems unlikely, especially as the libel laws in England are focussed on prompt resolution, where possible, early apologies, and a restrained attitude to damages. Frankly, if Mr Morris rejected the apology above only to receive a similar one in the courts now, it is probable that his legal bill will far exceed any recovery he might make!

2                    The Sunday Times, having apologised for libelling Mr Morris, then repeated the libels. If so, one would expect the Mail piece to refer to this, because that would be an aggravation of the libel.

3                    The Mail has got the story wrong.

4                    The Mail is in fact referring to a different court case altogether.

On 22nd June 2011 the UK Press Gazette reported that Mr Morris was suing the Sunday Times for libel, claiming £100,000 in damages. The Gazette said:-

Owen Morris is demanding £100,000 in damages from Sunday Times publishers Times Newspapers over a story that appeared in March 2010 headlined ‘Life without the mask of Belle de Jour’- about the woman, whose real name is Brooke Magnanti.

He is also suing over a second story – ‘Brooke Magnanti: The World’s Fastest Interview’– that appeared in the Sunday Times in November 2010.

The first story claimed she had successfully won a court order restraining him from contacting her because he was guilty of seriously harassing her, and that he had approached tabloids to expose her identity as a call girl, then deliberately lied to conceal his actions claiming it was the tabloids who had approached him.

Morris is seeking aggravated damages, claiming the paper made no attempt at checking the allegations with him before publication and had refused to apologise for the stories.

So we have an action raised by June 2011, a published apology in February 2012, and the case is still in the High Court? That seems odd.

There is another case ongoing regarding Mr Morris and Dr Magnanti. This one proceeds at the Court of Session in Edinburgh where Mr Morris is pursuing her for defamation. The action is only against her, and not against any other publisher.

The case is at an early stage, having been raised in November 2012, and only now reaching the stage of the “closing of the record”. (This is a procedural step in a civil case in Scotland. Now the court will determine, what further procedure is needed – whether a legal “debate” is required or a hearing of evidence before a judge or jury appropriate now.)

The Herald reported on the raising of this action in December 2012. A copy of the piece can be read here, although, as explained below, it is a revised article.

The Herald report in fact managed to be the subject of a complaint by Dr Magnanti to the Press Complaints Commission! The PCC published in March 2013 its resolution of the complaint:-

Dr Brooke Magnanti aka Belle De Jour complained to the Press Complaints Commission under Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice about an article which reported that her former partner, Flight Lieutenant Owen Morris, had launched a legal action against her. The complainant was particularly concerned about a claim that Mr Morris had previously ‘sued a newspaper successfully after it published false claims by her about his conduct towards her’. The complainant said that the claim wrongly suggested that she had been responsible for the libellous claims.


The matter was resolved when the PCC negotiated a private apology to the complainant.

You will see, if you click on the Herald piece, that the line “sued a newspaper successfully after it published false claims by her about his conduct towards her” in the complained about piece now reads “sued a newspaper successfully after it published inaccurate reports about his conduct towards her”.

It is possible that the Mail story refers to the Scottish case, although I do not think so as (a) it does not involve the Sunday Times and (b) is not at the High Court.

In fact, it almost looks  as if the Mail story should be dated February 2012, and not July 2013!

On the basis that Dr Magnanti complained to the PCC about the Herald story, I suspect she will be picking up the laptop to make  a new complaint about the Mail piece on the same grounds.

Today’s Mail story manages to do the reverse of what a good newspaper story should!

However, it is now “out there” on the web, and already picked up by numerous “news aggregators”. On that basis, even if the Mail story was totally wrong (and it might not be although I am confused about how it can be correct), the internet will maintain that it is true.

As Terry Pratchett wrote in “The Truth”:-

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”

But when all these legal procedure, apologies, and complaints still leads to confusion, who can tell what the truth is!

Posted by Paul McConville



Filed under Bad Law, Civil Law, Daily Mail, Defamation, Press

60 responses to “The Daily Mail Reports on Belle De Jour and Sunday Times Apology Via a Time Warp

  1. cam

    Is this summit to do wiv Charlotte? some tart who tries to flog her mutton?
    Another heinous attack on the outstanding Daily Mail.
    I do hope that Ally,thats Rangers leading goal scorer,gets a wee column in the Scottish Daily Mail,where he comments on legal matters,cricket,baseball and tells us why Discworld was drivel.
    C’mon Paul get along to the game,,,there’s a singalong in your honour!

    • andy


      celtic charity raises £1 mill in 2012 and pays 70% to good causes, meanwhile rfc charity raises £300k and pays just 20% to good cause and 70% of funds raised to ranger fc ………

      dodgy or what?

  2. josephmcgrath112001809

    A fine example of why I always advised my pupils to study Physics rather than law.

    • cam

      Yes Joseph,,,the laws of physics could tell us all we needed to know about the Celtic fan who “fell” off the top tier at the 1999 shame game.
      His mass,his inertia,the force applied to affect his straightline motion,his terminal velocity and what happened to the energy as this sack of spuds hit the deck.
      Now the law regarding this could give you a sore napper as its dependent on interpretation by flawed carbon based life forms still confused as to which orifice it should excrete waste matter.
      Now whats your take on Brownian motion and does Guinness have laxative properties?

  3. Fra

    @Cameron…..Tut, tut, tut Cammy Bhoy. Methinks you have a secret sexual fantasy involving our Charlotte. I think you want her to beat you with Belle de Jours riding crop on your little buttocks with the butchers apron tattoo on each cheek. Whackity, Whackity, whack.

    Charlotte could rub in the camoline lotion on the little whelp marks.
    Oooooohhhhhhhh the stinging sensation is unbearable

  4. iantm

    Your comparing the wrong Tart cam.

    The comparison is RFC(IL) & all the SFA, SPL & SFL misdeeds, added to the lyiing PR as reported by a compliant MSM.

    Is it all beginning to unravel or are the shredder companies on Overtime?

    Did Fat Sally agree to a Guest Column because the Editor mentioned a Pie Chart?

    Like Sally I am baffled by this Trialist lark… How does it work again? TRFC SIGN Players but can’t REGISTER them & so are allowed to play them as Trialists, even though they have already signed them? Very SFA. ..

  5. Monti

    Looking forward to Albion Rovers cruising the game today, I mean Albion Rovers have played many more cup games over the years & decades than the tribute act, being just over 1 year old the new club will lack cup experience & I don’t think they could pull off a giant killing today.
    I will be listening intently to the ‘songs’ being sung by the the rangers fans today.
    Notebook – check.
    phone numbers for Police Scotland, Vincent Lunny, Stewart Regan,Neil Doncaster & UEFA at the ready.
    E-mail complaint addressed to the above ready to be sent…..

    • cam

      Add Peter Kearney’s number to your list,,,thats the guy who went after Mr Dallas,you remember him,the referee that was assaulted at Celtic park on national tv?
      Seemingly Mr Dallas crime of passing on an off colour e-mail was far more heinous than Mr O Rourke’s comments on drowning protestants.
      I think i’m correct in saying that the lovely Joe represents many Celtic fans?
      Howzat for whataboutery Monti?
      Enjoy the game.Get the good lady to take the weans out while you’re fulminating in all your glory.

    • 2 sides of the 1 coin

      UEFA have no jurisdiction over todays game. The game the other night however could see Celtics fines rise above £150k in the last 10 years as it will be their 7th fine.

      £150k is almost double that of the fines handed out to Rangers FC.

      Just the craic though. 🙂

  6. Who was it that said it’s Armageddon time,
    the fans of Sevco posted thousands of posts on the internet telling us how the SPL was doomed,


    a breath of fresh air, no cheating,bent refs ,just 12 teams on a level playing field,integrity intact.

  7. Fra

    Paul gives us a blog about a tart when my good self, Cam and Gort gave him material to instigate a blog without hatred or bile involving music.

    Step up to the plate Mr Mc Conville and do your bit for cross party harmony.

    Monti, myself David et al have held out the hand of friendship to our neighbours across the city and what better way than music.

  8. cam

    The thoughts of a call girl and her legal rights are somewhere below Neil Lennon’s thoughts on how to make friends, pour moi.
    Charlotte must be interviewed by police and asked where “her” info came from and if any of the “revelations” are indeed faked, then investigations into any possible malicious intent should be undertaken.
    Seek truth.
    Rangers are attempting to play a game of football by complying with the rules forced upon them by an illegal registration embargo.
    They have, as is their right,asked for guidance from the authorities,who admit that even they don’t know why certain conditions apply,,,Regan and Doncaster are paid big bucks to oversee this shambles.
    Do you think Paul should be in the Rovers dug out just in case Ally tries to put on an illegal sub?

    As Cam wrote in this blog

    Arty C can run round the world before the ink on the FTTT verdict was dry.

    • “Illegal registration embargo”,
      Green suggested it to the SFA, what happened to the SFA tribunial that the judge ordered to sit again to hand down a punishment fitting
      a crime that was described as just short of match fixing, the CLUB was to be punished by a years signing ban, the SFA ignored the judge, at the suggestion of GREEN, let us sign as many as i can afford,then call it a one year embargo.
      Green agreed to a sham embargo, an embargo that allowed Sevco to sign as many players as they liked,
      an embargo that has saw Sevco sign under contracts 7 players during the embargo, play them under contract in friendlies, will play some of them in cup games and league games, claiming they are trialists, just one more slap in the face to any club that has to play against Sevco, going onto the park to play against players you know that should not be on the park but also knowing that those that run the game are complicit in giving Sevco every assistance they can,

      Sevco can sign players now, so what can we do to give them an advantage, Scrap the long standing limit on players over 21,that will help their squad of full timer beat the squads of part timers.

  9. 2 sides of the 1 coin
    July 28, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Ive tried my hardest but i have to give in.

    The rules this season are the exact same as the rules last season. No rules have been changed at all. The rules on trialists are the exact same as they always have been.


    What about the rule that limited the number of players aged over 21, Ally was signing TRIALIST after TRIALIST over 21, weeks later a RULE CHANGE on the limits on players over 21 gets announced, the rule is scrapped, it suits only ONE club, a club that seemed to act as if it knew the rule was to be changed.

    • 2 sides of the 1 coin

      Rangers first team squad is currently 28 players. The 21 below are over 21. The other 7 are under 21.

      Andrew Little (F)
      Anestis Argyriou (D)
      Cameron Bell (G)
      Darren Cole (D)
      David Templeton (M)
      Dean Shiels (M)
      Emilson Cribari (D)
      Ian Black (M)
      Jon Daly (F)
      Kal Naismith (f)
      Kyle Hutton (D)
      Lee McCulloch (M)
      Lee Wallace (D)
      Nicky Clark (M)
      Nicky Law (M)
      Richard Foster (D)
      Ross Perry (D)
      Scott Gallacher (G)
      Sebastien Faure (D)
      Steven Smith (D)
      Moshni (D)

      So, whats the problem ?

      We can still sign 1 more over 21 and NOT be in breach of a rule that doesnt exist anymore.

  10. Mebbe’s the only way charlotte will get this into the msm is through a police investigation, mebbe’s the police have already had second thoughts, after all who wants the blame for releasing the whirlwind? polis, sfa, spfl, sevco Members?
    Best jist leave it!

    • If the police want to work lots of overtime they should push on and release
      the whirlwind, the resulting social unrest that would occur would keep them busy for a year or so, the whole country has been asked to go along with the “same club” “holding company” nonsense to keep the mob at bay,
      Politicians The SFA,SPL,SFL all saw the death threats, the bombs and bullets for what the are, Scotlands political and sporting leaders,plus the Sun newspaper all proved to be bawless in the face of the mob

  11. Ed Paisley

    Paul has posted a blog about important matters relating to the exigencies and pretexts involved in the aggregation of modern news stories.
    Your response is about sheep and propogating cheap stereotypes about country folks.
    By the way, I have a pal in the Western Isles who is a big fan of the rolling stones his favourite is “Hey, McLeod get off of my ewe”.
    The old ones arra best ones.

  12. Monti

    Just to confirm, for the avoidance of doubt & I won’t lie to you…….the creditors still have NOT been paid by the SAME…( ahem) club!

  13. Ed Paisley

    Charlotte isn’t a tart because she isn’t taking money. In fact, when you disclose closet bigots and a major conspiracy to defraud creditors then she is actually doing us all a public service. The end result might be some money coming back to the taxpayer.
    I would say Mr McCoist and Cardigan are like a couple of harlots offering themselves as bait to trap the bears into buying season books. Like those Dutch tarts in the shop windows my local minister keeps telling me about.

    • cam

      Aw for goodness sake Ted you had to go and bring religious sexual deviancy into Sunday’s topic,,,,i love licking the cream off a wee pineapple cake.
      Now as to your 100% correct assertion that my drivel is irrelevant to the blog,,,yes i concur.
      What’s your take on the legal rights of sex workers?
      Do you window shop? will you be tip toeing through the tulips anytime soon Tiny Tim?

    • Stevie

      In Walter and Ally we trust..
      Both legends. One who wore the cardigan as a testament to invincibility.
      Many tried and failed to get the better of the master tactician who has recently been recalled to arms to repel the enemy advance. They launched an all out attack when the Xtra special one’s battle garb was in the middle of a spin cycle.
      Sir Walter of immortalness has once again teamed up with our other “Hammer ‘O’ the Tic” and greatest goalscorer as he lays the foundations for yet another successful league campaign. We look forward to the ascent back to power and as always welcome the chase.
      I’ll say this much..I trust A+W a more than i’d trust your version of D&P .
      Dezzy & Petesy.
      What do you make of Celtic’s stance regarding the FFP proposals?

  14. Exposed….Cam and Two sides of a £1 coin meet to discuss today’s tactics for replying to Montis posts

    • cam

      Monti’s posts being the contents of the nappies?
      Looks a bit like Lenny being told off by a ref!

    • 2 sides of the 1 coin

      Which post would you like a reply to from the IRA loving “Grand Hotel tick tock” that is Monti ?

      • 2 sides of the 1 coin

        And whats your view on the innocent non politicians who were killed by the IRA from the Brighton bombing CB ?

        • Jaysus, i put up alight hearted video clip of a couple of weans and you start in again about the IRA, you post more about this than Monti ever does,

          My Views,Much the same as my views on the 14 civil rights marchers shot down in cold blood by the Brutish armed forces of the crown,
          much the same as the Shankill Butchers, or the Brigadiers of Bling,
          the IRA was fight to Drive an occupying force from THEIR country, the UVF and UDA were killing civilians just because of their victims religion.
          The Brutish forces of the crown were not shooting to kill civilians from the loyalist side of the divide,
          the IRA was not armed and trained and given information on who to murder by the Brutish armed forces of the crown.
          The Brutish Government sent in their murdering troops, then called terrorists when the IRA went for them in their own back yard

          • Monti

            They get all uppety & take offence when you mention the IRA, then when you stop mentioning the IRA, they want to mention the IRA!
            FFS 🙂

        • iantm

          2 sides YOU are like a broken record.

          I thought you were away never to post again?

          Liar, Liar, pants on Fire?

          • 2 sides of the 1 coin

            I never said that thanks.

            I said i was going on holiday early next week and it was unlikely i would be posting for a while, if again.

            Note. Early next week.

            Note. Unlikely

            Note. If.

            • iantm

              2 sides ,
              NOTE: Unlikely be posting for A WHILE…IF AGAIN.

              You never stopped posting & you are back on with the same mince.

              Like I already said, your like a broken record & your pants are on fire.

        • david

          Time to leave off Monti
          Give him a chance.
          Prodigal son, and all that.

          BTW, does anyone have Belle de Jours phone number?

          • 2 sides of the 1 coin

            No thanks. There are people worth giving a chance to. Monti is not one.

            • Monti

              😀 LOL

            • david

              Give him a chance.
              God loves a sinner that repents.
              Be magnanimous, its good for you.

              If he sticks to his word youve got to let it go.
              Back in, see Rangers are 4-0 up.
              Would be a great trophy to win, the only one they could pawn straight back.

        • mick

          why you constant bring up the past it’s well a tell tail sign the sevco cup is half empty the war is over the rebels won even the old firm is dead look to the future leave the past behind oh the grand hotel was a master stroke by the ra sad that the wrong people died but it was the torts that set the policies and they brought it on there self reconciliation has taken place from then and both England and Ireland are friends now the queen is even coming to Celtic park next year and this to me is the final step in reconsilation between to great nations who had troubles in the past oh the first step to reconciliation was the the queen laying flowers at the Dublin memorial for 1916 so the uk and Ireland are friends now and yous can’t handle it the 4 nations are mates for the first time in century’s what a great feeling for us all trade and each others well being is the only topic now so long may it continue

  15. Paddy Malarkey

    Illegal embargo ? Which law was broken ? I thought somebody had acted outwith the rules of their private organisation and been told by a judge to reconsider . Or am I mistaken ?

  16. cam

    I checked out this Brooke Magnanti burd and there’s no way i would pay her for a shot on the swings.
    Morag has got me painting on a match day!!! and i’ve gotta clean my own roller!!
    Did this burds boyfriend Wing Commander Chocks Away know she was a sex worker when he was lifting her under carriage?
    Some folk disgust me,washing their dirty smalls in public.
    If Charlotte can get away with getting her story “out there” and she doesn’t get paid, then as Willy would say,,,,haw haw haw

  17. cam

    Look Ted i’m not commenting on the Brooke burd anymore,,,she’s already had enough column inches.

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