Cheryl Cole has been getting her lawyers to fire off some pretty peculiar legal threats to stop journalists from talking about that time she punched a toilet attendant in a nightclub. So far, things haven’t quite gone to plan – but if she’s in the mood for some more suggestions…
You can understand why she’s getting a little frustrated. It’s been sixteen years – almost to the day – since it happened, but the Nation’s Sweetheart Cheryl is still having to endure journalists mentioning the time that she once got arrested for punching a toilet attendant in the face in a nightclub in Guildford after she tried to take a lollipop without paying for it.
The whole thing has got so far under her skin that she recently hired famed celebrity guard dogs, Carter-Ruck to dish out some spicy legal letters. One that was sent to the Guardian supposedly made the bold suggestion that repeating the fact that Cheryl was once convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm back in 2003 puts them at risk of breaching of the Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act 1974.
Chilling if it’s true but, thankfully, in that respect, our hands are pretty clean. Usually whenever any Cheryl story picks up steam, we’re much more inclined to find an angle that ties it into the long-standing music industry rumour that she’s been in a secret lesbian relationship with her former bandmate Kimberley Walsh, than we are in using it to rehash details of the time Cheryl got caught trying to make off with bog sundries in a Surrey nightclub and ended up trying to scrap her way out it.
It’s not as if Cheryl hasn’t done her part either. She has provided plenty of A-grade material in the years since. She married an immaculately bearded Frenchman under mysterious circumstances. She contracted malaria while on a hastily arranged holiday with a Mormon ballroom dancer. She had a baby with someone who technically amounts to being her former student. She pretended to date will.i.am.
She’s really spared no effort to give the media something else to report on besides the fact she once punched a woman in lieu of paying for a handful of Chupa-Chups. Yet here we are, 16 years later, still talking about it.
As we say, you can understand why she’s getting a little frustrated.
We’d be lying if we said we didn’t admire Cheryl’s decision to bust open the legal textbooks to look up the most obscure and esoteric laws to gag the media. It shows resourcefulness. It shows moxie. But getting a notoriously fearsome law firm to send out spurious threats on a hilariously flimsy pretence is not necessarily the smartest way of dealing with this particular problem.
In order to help her out a bit then, we thought we’d suggest a couple of other legal strategies that Cheryl might consider using if her current plan doesn’t work out the way she thought.
Really, it’s the least we can do.
1/ Human Rights Abuse
A few years ago, the right to sanitation was officially recognised as a human right. According to no lesser an authority than the United Nations General Assembly, everyone in the world is entitled to use a toilet with a certain level of privacy.
Their exact wording is this: “The right to sanitation entitles everyone to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity.”
If we can all agree on one thing, it’s this. What took place in that nightclub toilet in Surrey that fateful night in 2003 falls very short of this description. It wasn’t safe, it wasn’t dignified and – if Cheryl started throwing punches before she’d properly washed her hands – it may not even have been hygienic.
But crucially, it most definitely hasn’t been private.
The incident – in which Cheryl Cole (formerly of Girls Aloud; currently a judge on BBC’s The Greatest Dancer) thumped Sophie Amogbokpa in the face after attempting to steal sweets from her stand – has been splashed across all manner of national and international outlets.
The BBC. The Daily Mail. The Guardian. The Telegraph. All have arguably stripped Cheryl from her inalienable human right to use a toilet in private.
The keener legal minds among you will have no doubt noticed that nowhere in the UN’s text do they offer international toilet users any sort of immunity from crime while using such facilities. And, yes. You’d be right to point that out.
You are only really protected by international law so far as piss and shit are concerned. If you decide you want to start snorting coke off the seats of a nightclub bog, Antonio Guterres is not going to come to your rescue when a bouncer tries to kick you out. UN peacekeeping troops will not set up a perimeter around your cubicle if you try to drill a glory hole in it. The same presumably goes for stealing sweets and punching night-workers. Though the UN haven’t ruled on it specifically, they are unlikely to intervene on your behalf.
The good news for Cheryl though is that it doesn’t seem like her lawyers will much care about that. Their absolutely wilful misreading of the Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act 1974 shows that they’re more than happy to take the broadest interpretation of legal wording and misapply it to situations where it really has no bearing.
So if the UN says your toilet activity ought to be private, then newspapers need to respect that. Even if that activity is committing egregious acts of ABH, you need some discretion.
2/ Minor Offences
If that fails to work, here’s another angle.
One of the reasons that so many injunctions were handed out so freely in the great Superinjunction Craze of 2010/11 was because of a neat little bit of emotional manipulation that quickly became popular among certain sorts of celebrities.
Using their kids as a bargaining chip to get what they wanted.
Whether they had been rumbled for having an extra-marital affair, shagging a colleague’s girlfriend, fathering a lovechild, or setting up an extravagant olive oil/paddling pool sex party in one of London’s most prestigious hotels, the play was the same. Instead of framing themselves as the victim of the press, they chose to make their children the victims instead.
Ordinarily we’re sure these people would have been only too happy to hold their hands up and take the blame for their transgressions – would welcome it, even – but it just wouldn’t be fair to their children, your honour. Those poor innocent children who might be bullied or suffer other adverse effects if their parents’ bad behaviour was to become public knowledge, plastered all over the papers.
They weren’t taking those extremely expensive gagging orders out to spare their own blushes! Perish the thought! The only thing at the forefront of their minds – the ONLY thing – was the welfare and safety of their children.
Back in 2003 this is a tactic that wouldn’t have worked for Cheryl. However, she has since had a child of her own: Bear.
It will doubtless help her case that she hasn’t done the typical celeb circuit with her baby, showing him off to all the weekly glossies, or sending pictures out to all the tabloids. So if she ever does want to use his emotional well-being as a cover to have us all keep mum about the time she get caught throwing fists in the lavvies, then why not have a crack at that?
There must be some kindly judge who will agree that Bear should only find out that his mother once got arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated assault after a violent, drunken outburst in a Guildford shitter when the time is right (when he’s fifteen and needing bailing out after he’s gone crazy on bath salts and tried to hump a police car).
3/ Forget About It
Maybe you can’t force the papers to stop writing about you with threats of legal retribution, but another thing you could try is having your lawyers file a complaint with Google. At least that way anything that pesky journalists do write about you duffing up low-paid workers while trying to pilfer merchandise will be lost to the internet wilderness.
The so-called ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ is one of these big-sounding, tech-forward modern laws that would basically solve a big chunk of the problem for Cheryl in one handy swoop.
Funnily enough, the law was actually forged with things like the Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act in mind; a way for people who were trying to escape continued reference to their past indiscretions, allowing them to gain back some control of the way their life was presented online.
So if Cheryl really is determined to stop people from persistently dredging up the time she was arrested after thundering a right hook into Sophie Amogbokpa’s eye, then this could be the key to it.
There’s just one snag.
There’s currently a limiting factor on the application form that you have to fill out and submit to Google. It only allows you to enter one name. This poses quite a significant problem for a woman who committed the crime as Cheryl Tweedy, became a household name as Cheryl Cole, and then created an astounding number of digital inches about herself as Cheryl Fernandez-Versini.
They’re also unlikely to just accept just ‘Cheryl’ on the form either (no matter how hard she tries to make this mononym thing take off) so with three names and a stage name now attached to this story, despite Google’s best efforts, they’re probably not going to be able to solve Cheryl’s problems without overhauling their entire system.
But maybe that’s all the more reason to try? Google is compelled now by EU law to offer this service to people. If it’s not fit for purpose then maybe it needs something like the strong arm of Carter-Ruck to get it fixed?
And, really, what better purpose could there be than to finally afford Cheryl Cole – the most persecuted pugilist in Britain – some much-deserved respite?
We’ll see you in court.