Cole lawyer launches internet search for libel witnesses

Teacher Stern Selby’s Graham Shear has turned to the internet in a search for witnesses to support footballer Ashley Cole’s libel claim against The News of the World and The Sun.

Shear filed a claim on Cole’s behalf at the end of February following the publication of articles alleging that two unnamed Premiership footballers had participated in a “gay sex orgy”.

Now Shear has set up an online questionnaire asking readers if they were aware of the articles, had associated them with a particular person or if they discussed the articles on the internet.

Shear said he believed the move to be a unique way of fighting litigation.

“Effectively what I’m doing is trawling for potential witnesses,” he admitted. “In any situation like this one of the things you need to do is assess a relevant group. There are lots of examples of people who have picked up on this.”

The claim says that the articles were arranged in such a way that readers could identify Cole as being one of the footballers referred to, although he was not named. A news website for the gay community,, later linked Cole to the articles when it compared an edited photograph used by the tabloids with an unedited version featuring the footballer.

Farrer & Co is defending the two newspapers against the claims.