'Will Carole Caplin lift the lid on Blairs' marriage?' it asked. The article ran on page 13, under the headline ‘Carole’s £1m question: Will she tell all about Blairs’ sex secrets?’
The article began:
She once turned down the offer of £1million for the story of her ten years as lifestyle guru to Tony and Cherie Blair.
But Carole Caplin might now be forced to think again following the failure of a gym she set up to offer massages and health consultations to the wealthy...
The Blairs have always been worried that the former exotic dancer might 'push the nuclear button' and write a book about her extraordinary association with them.
Caplin launched a libel action against the Daily Mail's publishers, Associated Newspapers in which she argued that the article could be read to mean:
there are strong grounds to suspect that the Claimant will now disclose their sex secrets for substantial financial reward
The Press Gazette reported:
According to the writ, no proper effort was made to put the claims to her before publication. It alleges that although the paper contacted her representative, there were no questions about financial difficulties, a book, the Blairs, or sex secrets, and the conversation was solely about her gym...
The writ says that the Daily Mail has refused to apologise or retract the claims, and that the website story remains online.
At a hearing in June, where Associated tried to have the case struck out, their lawyer accepted:
that some of the headlines and captions and the first third of the article in particular could foster a suspicion in isolation that the Claimant might be planning to disclose things about the Blairs that she knew from her friendship with them. But she submits the court should not adopt a "broad brush" approach or focus simply on the headlines. She accepted during the course of argument that none of the various rhetorical questions which are posed are ever answered in the negative, but says neither they nor the hypothetical scenarios which are addressed in the article are ever answered in a positive way either...
David Price QC, for Caplin, argued:
the article poses the same question in a variety of forms: "Will Carole Caplin lift the lid on Blairs' marriage?", "Carole's £1million question: Will she tell all about Blairs' sex secrets?", "Is Carole Caplin set to blow the lid on Tony and Cherie Blair's sex secrets?". The question he says is only worth asking if there are solid grounds to suspect that the Claimant will disclose the information. In the light of the presentation and content of the article (and putting it at its lowest) a jury could, without perversity, understand the article to suggest that there are strong grounds to suspect that she will do so.
The Hon. Mrs Justice Sharp ruled:
I have concluded that read as a whole, and applying the relevant principles to the issue as it arises now, the article is capable of conveying the suspicion that the Claimant will "lift the lid on the Blairs' marriage" and their "sex secrets" for substantial financial reward.
Today, the Mail has published the following apology:
An article about Carole Caplin on 18 September 2010 ‘Carole’s £1m question: Will she tell all about Blairs’ sex secrets?’ suggested that Ms Caplin might reveal intimate details about Tony and Cherie Blair in a book for a substantial sum, which might lift the lid on their marriage and finish the Blairs. We accept that Ms Caplin would not disclose such matters and that there was nothing improper about massages she gave Mr Blair. We apologise to Ms Caplin.