- WORLD CUP and ashes hero Ben Stokes to sue Murdoch’s Sun
- ENGLAND vice-captain is joined by mum Deb in high court action
- THE PAIR have instructed Prince Harry’s rottweiler barrister
- HACKING-LINKED SUN journalist Nick Parker is man behind story
ENGLAND Cricket superstar Ben Stokes is suing The Sun over its coverage of a 31-year-old family tragedy – and he’s hired the same hard-hitting lawyer as Prince Harry, Byline Investigates can reveal.
The 28-year-old Ashes hero, and his mother Deborah, filed actions at the High Court in London on September 30 – 13 days after the tabloid ran a controversial front page attacked by Stokes as “disgusting” and “immoral”.
And a legal source said: “Mr Stokes and his mother are intent on asserting their rights through the courts in relation to The Sun.”
It follows a front-page story on September 17 by the Rupert Murdoch-owned title – details of which we are not republishing – which intruded into the family’s grief and used a number of personal photographs.
Ben Stokes is retaining barrister David Sherborne, who is fighting the Duke of Sussex’s phone hacking case against The Sun and Mirror, an action revealed last week exclusively by Byline Investigates.
Mr Sherborne – who made his name at the Leveson Inquiry and then went on to represent hundreds of victims of media intrusion in the High Court – has not commented, but it is understood Stokes’s case is unlikely to proceed to court until 2020.
Sherborne gained a reputation for being the most feared Claimant counsel, when he represented Paul Weller and his family in a ground-breaking privacy action brought against the Daily Mail a few years ago.
The Stokes’s filed their action on September 30, via Liverpool-based solicitors Brabners LLP, the same law firm that acted for the England all-rounder when he was cleared of affray at a court in Bristol twelve months ago, following a high-profile trial.
At the time of its publication, New Zealand-born all-rounder Stokes condemned The Sun article, written by controversial Chief Foreign Correspondent Nick Parker, the journalist we named this week as the paper’s ‘dark arts’ king.
Stokes criticised the piece as “the lowest form of journalism, focused only on chasing sales”, and urged people to respect his family’s privacy and right to home life.
He wrote: “To use my name as an excuse to shatter the privacy and private lives of – in particular – my parents is utterly disgusting.”
The article described in detail matters relating to Deborah Stokes’ previous relationship 31 years ago, before Ben was born.
Stokes said a journalist turned up at his parents’ home in New Zealand “out of the blue” to ask highly personal questions. The Sun reported that the couple and the cricketer had declined to comment.
In a statement, Stokes said his own position as a public figure was no excuse to “invade” the rights and privacy of his family members.
He added: “This is the lowest form of journalism, focused only on chasing sales with absolutely no regard for the devastation caused to lives as a consequence. It is totally out of order.”
He went on to say the paper’s decision to publish the story would have “grave and lifelong consequences” for his mother, in particular, adding that the story, which was widely reported, contained a number of serious inaccuracies.
He wrote: “Today The Sun has seen fit to publish extremely painful, sensitive and personal details concerning events in the private lives of my family, going back more than 31 years.
“It is hard to find words that adequately describe such low and despicable behaviour, disguised as journalism.
“I cannot conceive of anything more immoral, heartless or contemptuous to the feelings and circumstances of my family.”
Hacked Off, the campaign for media accountability, also criticised The Sun. A spokesperson said: “The Sun’s Ben Stokes front page story was an appalling invasion of privacy with no public interest justification.
“If The Sun had joined an independent regulator as Leveson recommended instead of spending the last five years mindlessly attacking his proposals as a threat to free speech without a shred of evidence, then they might have been in a position to benefit from the low-cost system of arbitration Leveson recommended as a means to save court costs for both claimant and defendant in cases such as these.
“Instead the title finds itself fighting yet another legal action following this appallingly intrusive coverage.
“Many people affected by press abuse are ordinary members of the public who do not have the means to pursue justice to or hold newspapers to account.
“For every person who has the resources to bring a claim against a newspaper, there are dozens who have been deprived of access to justice by the failures of the newspaper industry and the Government to introduce Leveson’s reforms.
“Until the Leveson system of truly independent press regulation is introduced, the abuse suffered by Stokes and his family, and many more victims of press abuse, will persist.
“Leveson Part 2 was scrapped in part because we were told the press had already changed enough. The last few weeks have shown this once again to be a lie.”
Stokes is the runaway favourite to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December, having helped England win the World Cup in July before playing a starring role in the drawn Ashes series.
His unbeaten 135 to turn what looked like certain defeat into a memorable one-wicket third Ashes test win over Australia at Headingley was hailed as one of the greatest batting displays of all time.
And since then, the star has been the target of several stories about his life off the field.
Yesterday, the Guido Fawkes website – which is run by former Sun columnist Paul Staines – published images of Stokes and his wife Clare at an awards ceremony, which it wrongly claimed showed a physical altercation between the two.
However, Clare Stokes was quick to attack the coverage, saying on Twitter: “Unbelievable what nonsense these people will make up.”
Addressing the claims himself, the cricketer told the Mirror: “I have become used to people making stuff up about me, but of all the topics not to mess with domestic abuse has to be at the top of the list.
He dismissed reports about the images as “cheap headlines”, adding: “To falsify and spread these kind of allegations so willingly is totally irresponsible.”
Byline Investigates has sought comment from The Sun, and Brabners LLP, about this story, but had yet to receive a response at the time of publication.