Former Sunday Express critic claims he was sacked over discovery of ‘gay’ naked online photos
A former theatre critic at the Sunday Express who claimed that he was sacked as the paper said he brought it into “disrepute” when naked photos of him two decades old were discovered online, will go to a tribunal next week.
Mark Shenton, who was employed by the paper for eleven years said his photographs were not illegal, and were taken private, in refuting the alleged reasons for his dismissal.
Mr Shenton will be seeking compensation for unfair dismissal at London South Employment Tribunal in Croydon from Monday 18 August.
Suggesting that he was only sacked because the website in question was gay, and noting Tom Daley’s coming out, he went on to claim that Martin Townsend, the editor of the Express, said the pictures were “embarrassing”.
The 51-year-old said: “My sexuality is public knowledge and by revealing this information freely as I’m doing now, it is clear that I do not agree.”
Writing on his blog to announce his dismissal, he continued: “The paper had been tipped off by a malicious third party that there were some private, personal (but entirely legal) images of me available on a gay website.
“I’d never seen or heard of the site myself so it was news to me, but yes, the thumbnail picture I was shown by the head of human resources was indeed of me.”
Saying that someone could have only gained access to the photo if they had paid for the site, he said: “I had not posted it, but remembered it being taken, by my reckoning, by a friend in San Francisco I have long lost touch with some 22 years ago – long before I either worked for the paper or the internet had come of age, so I never expected them to turn up on a website that didn’t exist then.”
Referring to the paper’s owner, Richard Desmond, he said: “It is truly ironic that I should be fired by an organisation run by a pornographer.
“It is rank hypocrisy to sack me over this,” he continued.
Representing the claimant at the employment tribunal, employment law specialist Arpita Dutt, a Partner at Brahams Dutt Badrick French LLP, said: “We believe that the dismissal of Mr Shenton was a callous step to take against a loyal, hard-working member of staff of 11 years.
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“Furthermore, Mr Shenton believes he has been the victim of an act of ‘revenge porn’ – when explicit images of ex-partners are used to cause them harm.
“Rather than support him, the Sunday Express compounded the actions of this malicious complainant by dismissing him despite the pictures being historic, published without his consent, and not being publicly available through basic web searches.
“Mr Shenton suffers from depression. The Sunday Express Editor and HR Director had no regard for his mental health, and his anguish regarding his treatment has still not abated. It was a role that was critical to and shaped his identity, a role which he loved. He has not been able to find a comparative role to replace it.”
The critic joined the Sunday Express in April 2002. Before taking up his Express role, he worked for the Press Association from 1990.
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