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Sports Star Wins Privacy Ruling in U.K. Court Over `Sexual Encounter'

A U.K. sports star won an order barring newspapers from identifying him as cheating on his long- time partner, in a ruling that a lawyer said might force the media to run more stories without naming their subjects.

The Court of Appeal in London today upheld a ruling preventing the media from printing that the athlete had a “sexual encounter” with someone other than his long-term partner. The three-judge panel said that while today’s judgment pointed out the athlete cheated on his partner, such information won’t jeopardize his privacy because there have been “quite a few stories relating to well known people.”

There are several privacy cases involving newspapers in London courts, said Duncan Lamont, a media lawyer at Charles Russell LLP. Max Mosley, the former Formula One president, won a case against the News of the World newspaper in 2008 after the News Corp. paper published a story that he participated in a Nazi-themed sex party. Today’s ruling might force newspapers to abandon a policy of not running a story without identifying the subjects.

“If you have stories written without names, what is the point of that?” Lamont said. “It will diminish trust between newspapers and their readers,” he said. “For journalists and readers it’s a bad day.”

The athlete sought the order in August after learning that News Corp.’s Sun newspaper planned to run a story about him, according to the judgment. News Corp. spokeswoman Daisy Dunlop declined to comment.

The court order will stand until the case goes to trial, the judges said.

The case is JIH -and- News Group Newspapers. Cases: A2/2010/274 and 2746.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Lumley in London at jlumley1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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