From Cole to Caprice, celebrities kept lawyers busy in 2006

Times Online, December 18, 2006
Celebrities, don’t you just love ‘em? Alright, not all of the time. I know that the arbiter of correct legal thought, the man on the Clapham omnibus, gets a little fed up with the preening and prancing of those in the public eye. But we lawyers never tire of them. Celebrities have large bank accounts, pay their bills and have an unerring ability to require legal advice — and this was another bumper year.

Our favourite celebrity brushes with the law in 2006:

10. Ashley Cole, the now notoriously heterosexual England football player, sued the News of the World and The Sun for libel and breach of privacy: so far, so routine. But Cole’s legal action was unusual in that the articles in question, which alleged that an unnamed Premiership football player was bisexual, did not name him. His novel claim relied upon the concept of "false privacy"; this meant that although Cole, who now plays for Chelsea, did not accept that the articles were true he still contended that they infringed his right to a private life. The papers apologised and paid "very substantial" damages.

9. Tony Blair, the country’s most famous lawyer, achieved the dubious distinction of becoming the first British Prime Minister to be questioned in a criminal inquiry as the "cash for peerages" scandal deepened. The Times then revealed that Downing Street aides and Labour officials were being investigated on suspicion of perverting the course of justice after it appeared that documents relating to the investigation had "disappeared". Whoops.

8. Madonna was involved in a highly-publicised adoption wrangle – proof that turning 40 should not be seen as a bar to continued involvement in complex legal problems.

7. Pete Doherty. Troubled, sensitive, talented, delicately handsome, well-acquainted with Kate Moss – he even supports my beloved QPR! Why, when he seems to have it all, the young man continues to land himself in trouble with the law is a mystery. It must be more than concern for his lawyer’s well-being. Perhaps in 2007 he will tell us, in between court appearances.

6. Caprice. Nice legs, even lovelier face, shame about the drink-driving. Not even Mr Loophole could save her.

5. Mr Loophole. Oh, delicious irony! Nick Freeman, so-called "lawyer to the stars" was everywhere in 2006, becoming a star in his own right, but then ran into a spot of bother with Gwent Police, who are investigating claims that he was involved in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He has denied any wrongdoing but I cannot help but wonder whether there is another Mr Loophole out there helping him assert his innocence. A loophole lawyer for the loophole lawyer to the stars?

4. Naomi Campbell. No review of celebrities and their legal contre-temps would be complete without her. This year: several alleged assaults, including one involving a "jewel-encrusted mobile phone."

3. Mel Gibson has to place highly for so spectacularly denting his reputation by drink-driving and following it up with an anti-Semitic tirade. Good work for his lawyers but a much harder task for his publicist.

2. Snoop Dogg was arrested last month for allegedly possessing drugs and a firearm. The rapper is no stranger to the judicial process but has not served any time since the early 1990s. Excellent work by his legal team.

The preceding individuals are all worthy contenders, but nobody else could take top spot in 2006 but:

1. Heather Mills and Sir Paul McCartney. The tabloids could barely contain their glee when the former model and the ex-Beatle split and launched into the year’s most public divorce, lining up Anthony Julius of Mishcon de Reya and Fiona Shackleton of Payne Hicks Beach, the lawyers who went toe-to-toe during the Prince and Princess of Wales’ divorce, to represent them. Things reached an incendiary pitch after a portion of Mills’ divorce filing emerged in the press alleging Sir Paul had violently attacked her, sparking speculation as to who might have leaked such a thing. Mills then began representing herself in some aspects related to the case, apparently feeling that the estimated £15,000-a-day costs were a bit too steep. A contested hearing is expected to be heard in public in the spring – which of course means that 2007 promises to be even better.