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MAYOR SETTLES NAKED ROMP PICTURES ROW; Sammy wins damages over 'holiday snaps' publication.

FIREBRAND loyalist Sammy Wilson and his former lover have secretly settled their damages dispute over a naked picture holiday romp.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast and his one-time girlfriend Sharon Rivers were due in court tomorrow to sue two Dublin newspapers for breach of copyright and confidence.

They were seeking pounds 100,000 damages from the Sunday World and The Star newspaper for publishing nude photos of the couple.

Five days had been set aside for the case which was due to take centre stage tomorrow at the High Court in Belfast before a judge.

A number of key witnesses had been subpoenaed by the couple to testify against the Sunday World.

And 'Wee Sammy' was even preparing to temporarily stand aside from public office for a week so he could attend the case.

But the Irish Sunday Mirror has learned that lawyers for both sides hammered out an 11th hour deal late on Friday evening, staving off any court hearing.

Under the terms of the agreement, the settlement is to remain confidential.

However, it is believed the couple will each receive around pounds 30,000 - one third of their original pounds 100,000 damages demand.

Said a senior DUP source: "Sammy is very pleased with the outcome. He feels he has been vindicated in taking this action.''

Legal sources said the total costs for the case could be in the region of pounds 250,000.

The Sunday World first published the nude photographs over SEVEN pages.

The personal photographs of the couple were taken while they were holidaying in France.

The couple claimed they were stolen from them and then published in the newspapers in May 1996.

But the Sunday World denied knowing the pictures had been stolen, and said they had arrived in the post at its Belfast city centre office.

The Star, its sister paper, reprinted them the following day.

Soon after publication, Mr Wilson and Ms Rivers were granted an injunction restraining the Sunday World from republishing the photographs showing them in a nude or semi-nude state.

During one hearing, lawyer Jim Allister said his two clients had suffered "considerable humiliation'' by the publication of the photographs.

He said the Sunday World had handed over 22 negatives but three were missing and he described them as being of a "sensitive nature".

The hand-over took place in the presence of two RUC officers investigating the alleged theft of the negatives.

At the time of publication, Mr Wilson was the DUP's press officer. His party's leader and Free Presbyterian Moderator the Rev Ian Paisley publicly defended Mr Wilson's conduct.

"What a man does in his private life, whether I agree with it or not, is a matter entirely for himself and, in final accountability, to his maker - as long as it does not militate against standards of public decency or views he promotes in his public life,'' he said.

"Sammy Wilson was at the time in a remote and secluded place where no onlooker was likely to be shocked or offended.

"And, of course, he has never publicly urged that nudity in a private place should be prohibited."

However, it was later revealed that he had voted against nude bathing at a council-owned swimming pool in Belfast.

The councillor came in for scathing criticism from members of Dr Paisley's own church including a minister the Rev Ivan Foster, a former DUP member, who branded Mr Wilson's naked romp in Flanders as "unseemly behaviour".
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Author:Cassidy, John
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 8, 2000
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