Following the publication of the photographs on PinkNews.co.uk, Mr Cole and Mr Thompson began legal action against the News of the World and the Sun but not against PinkNews.co.uk. At the time, PinkNews.co.uk claimed that it wanted to expose the tactics of the News of the World, rather than out anyone.
Solicitors for the News of the World and The Sun then wrote to PinkNews.co.uk stating that they reserve the right to commence third party proceedings against the site under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 in relation to the libel claims of Mr Cole but not Mr Thompson. The letter claimed that the newspapers had not intended to name either party and that their identity was only known through the publication of photographs on PinkNews.co.uk, something that the publishers of this website denied.
At the time, a News of the World spokesperson justified the threat of legal action against PinkNews.co.uk telling The Press Gazette: “The irony of this case is that those who did not identify Cole as being allegedly involved have been sued. Those who did, and continue to name him, have not. The newspapers’ liability ends with its publications and does not extend to subsequent publications by others.”
the Press Gazette described the case as “the most unusual and complex libel disputes of recent years” as it related to the ‘jigsawing’ of information published in newspapers and information available on the internet.
Benjamin Cohen, then editor of PinkNews.co.uk told the Press Gazette: “PinkNews.co.uk behaved in a responsible way in its handling of the Ashley Cole story. At no point did we claim that Mr Cole was gay.
“All that PinkNews.co.uk did was to publish what it believed (and subsequently emerged) to be the original version of a photograph edited by the News of the World.”