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'Locker' journo may sue Cele

2010-07-10 18:54

Cape Town - A British tabloid journalist who had been accused of trying to undermine World Cup security is considering suing National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele for making defamatory remarks about him .

Simon Wright, a reporter for the Sunday Mirror, paid a R750 fine on Saturday after admitting to breaking South Africa's immigration law in exchange for prosecutors' agreement not to pursue the case further.

His attorney, William Booth, informed the media of the possibility of a civil action against Cele during a media briefing outside the Cape Town Magistrate's Court.

Booth told reporters that the Immigration Act violation was a mere "technical misdemeanour" and that Wright's reason for booking Joseph into the hotel under the assumed name had been to put other media off Joseph's scent.

Exclusive interview

The police accused Wright of helping to orchestrate an attempt to undermine World Cup security after a man, Pavlos Joseph, found his way into England's change room at Cape Town Stadium after a 0-0 draw between England and Algeria in June.

Wright had wanted to protect his "exclusive interview" with Joseph about trespassing the England team's change room.

Booth said the admission of guilt was an administrative act, and did not amount to a criminal conviction.

He said the violation of the Immigration Act was no more serious than a minor traffic offence.

It is common practice in the hotel industry for guests to book in under assumed names, for the purpose of privacy, he said.

Booth said it was the first time in South African legal history that a prosecution had been instituted for innocently booking into a hotel under an assumed name.

Wright said he had felt comfortable about going on trial on the initial charges, but that he and Booth needed time to prepare his defence.

He added: "I cannot hang around here in South Africa for four weeks."

Good story

He said he had "merely pursued a good story," which had been an embarrassment for the authorities.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa welcomed the outcome of the case, saying it represented "a major victory, not only for the criminal justice system but for the country as a whole".

"Wright's admission of guilt is indicative that some journalists will do anything to get a story, even commit(ing) a criminal act," he said.

"We are a sovereign country, with laws that must be upheld by all citizens, as well as all visitors".

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