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Celebrity Threesome Injunction Over PJS And YMA Ignites Row Between Liz Kendall And Neil Wallis

Both passionate cases for what is and isn't in the public interest.

15/04/2016 08:36 | Updated 18 April 2016

LATEST: Court says celebrity threesome injunction can now be lifted

Former tabloid editor Neil Wallis has insisted revealing the couple behind a celebrity threesome would be "completely in the public interest" despite a court granting an injunction against the press to protect their children's privacy.

Wallis, former deputy editor of the News of the World and editor of The People, defended claims the pair should be named, while also criticising other media for revealing a prominent Tory MP's relationship with an escort, saying the two stories were like "bananas and cucumbers".

In a fiery exchange with Liz Kendall and Michael Portillo on the BBC's 'This Week', he said the court action against the press by those named only in court documents as 'PSJ' and 'YMA' was "simply crazy".

BBC
Neil Wallis argued passionately that the 'YMA' 'PSJ' story was 'completely in the public interest'

"What you have on the celebrity threesome story is you have a world famous couple who have used their family's status, who have paraded their children, have used it as a marketing ploy, then using their vast wealth to basically hire expensive lawyers to gag the rest of the world," he said on Thursday.

"The issue though of how you gag a story like that - that I would argue is completely in the public interest."

But he also argued that the BBC and Private Eye had broken a "non-story about someone most people had never even heard of" when asked about parallels of privacy between the celebrity super-injunction news and that of Whittingdale's relationship with a sex worker.

"Of course the issue of privacy and public interest is a complex one, and of course all media are beholden at all times to report the news," he continued.

"But the suggestion that there is a parallel between this story and the privacy super injunction is ridiculous.

Jon Super/AP
John Whittingdale's relationship relationship with an escort from 2013 was revealed Tuesday evening

"It’s simply crazy that in the post-Leveson world it should be acceptable that a famous couple could use their glamorous lifestyle and their children as a lucrative marketing tool."

But Labour MP and former party leadership-hopeful Kendall picked Wallis up on his remarks, saying it was not for others to judge a couple's sexual exploits just because they had children. 

The Court of Appeal lawyer who imposed the super-injunction preventing English media identifying the couple had cited their children's right to privacy. 

BBC
Liz Kendall said the couple's right to privacy should not be infringed by having children

Wallis insisted the celebrity pair - who say they are in an open relationship - should expect to have news about one half being involved in a threesome splashed on British newspaper's front pages because of "hypocrisy".

He added that "when they had their children, it was almost like the birth of a royal prince".

But Kendall and her co-panellist Portillo hit back in a fiery exchange, the Labour MP lamenting angrily: "However they may behave in their private life they may well have their children too. What business is that of anybody’s?"

Portillo sided with her, saying: "I don’t understand why just because these people are famous their private lives are up for grabs."

BBC
Labour MP Liz Kendall and co-panellist Micheal Portillo

He eventually employed Wallis' choice of phrase and reasoned that the political panelists' and former tabloid editor's views on the matter were "like bananas and cucumbers - you have one view of life and we have a different one".

Despite a popular US magazine and Scottish newspaper both having named the  pair at the centre of the injunction row, English and Welsh media are still blocked from identifying them. 

The Daily Mail recently published a scathing front page headlined “Why the law is an ass!”, that lamented being hit by the naming ban while thousands of Americans could read freely about the affair because no such injunction had been sought or granted in the US.

The paper accused the justice system of “descending into farce” and wrote in an editorial inside the paper: “Could anything more starkly expose the law’s failure to keep up with the internet age, in which no judge’s ruling can stop stories from flashing round the world?” 

The Court of Appeal will hear The Sun On Sunday’s appeal against the injunction on Friday. 

If the paper wins, and the injunction is lifted, the couple can immediately be named.

The hearing is to be held behind closed doors and the court will issue a judgment on the same day.

The newspaper was poised to publish the story about the alleged threesome when PJS and YMA went to the courts to prevent it.

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