Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Defamation threat just deserts for 'hurt' worker

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Annabel Newton alleges James Haskell asked her to perform a sexual act on him. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Annabel Newton alleges James Haskell asked her to perform a sexual act on him. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Good luck, James Haskell, England's flanker, in your defamation case against Annabel Newton.

She's the 24-year-old gap worker who demanded $30,000 for "hurt feelings" after Haskell and two other players were accused of smutty behaviour in Dunedin. When their apology wasn't to her satisfaction, she spilled her guts to British media for money and her legal bill.

What exactly went on in that Southern Cross Hotel room during the Rugby World Cup has become a case of "she says, they say".

Newton's official job was "conference attendant", she told the UK Mirror, "helping to look after the [England] team, making sure they had all their meals and dealt with any specific requests".

There'd been some "regular" joking during the day between her and the players over her walkie-talkie; some had pinched it from her then radioed to say they'd taken her hostage.

Later it transpired that Newton went to their room to retrieve her walkie-talkie.

Lo! The English rugby players, who'd been larking about all day, were not wearing corduroy trousers and cravats, wanting to discuss the literary merits of Proust! Instead, they wanted to play "find the walkie-talkie" and a source said Haskell's behaviour was "juvenile", he was "responsible for silly taunting". Newton was deeply distressed about this.

Newton also alleges Haskell asked her to perform a sexual act on him. He denies it.

I've often written that women should be able to go about their lives free from pain-in-the-ass men who think they have the God-given right to grope and abuse them. I get furious at those who believe women are gagging for it because they wear provocative clothing, drink too much or party hard.

But that doesn't mean women should be totally irresponsible, then turn around and demand money to mend some perceived slight.

If, as Newton told the Mirror, these players had been annoying her all day, why did she go into their bedroom alone? She told the newspaper she'd apologised to her management for doing as much, and was reassured it was okay, but why not take security with her?

And if Haskell, as alleged, did ask for a sexual act which Newton didn't want to perform, why didn't she just tell him to naff off, as women have been saying in hundreds of different languages every day for thousands of years?

Newton seems to me to be nothing but a mischief-maker. In my opinion, reading her story in the Mirror, I can see between the lines what this is - the English players behaved like prats and Newton enjoyed the attention until it became more than serious flirting.

Then she saw there might be money in it after the apology she received was not "good enough".

Oh, grow up and dry your eyes. Sharpen your tongue and smile, Newton, if you want to deal with men in the real world. They are simple creatures; easily tamed.

According to the Times in London, this all cost Haskell £200,000 ($403,030) in legal fees and a contract with an Australian franchise. Now Newton's bleating over the Times story, saying it has upset her "all over again".

And she's wailing that the lawsuit is "ridiculous and upsetting" because she has no job and can't give Haskell any money: "It just seems that he's spearheading a smear campaign against me over in England."

You started the smear campaign, girl, when you ran to the papers and took payment for your story. You got an apology from the players but it wasn't enough for you. Now the tables are turned.

Let this be a lesson to any other minx wanting to try it on. Hopefully, Haskell's action might give them pause, because nasty games like this can ruin reputations.

The entire incident reflects badly on both sexes. Men behaving badly, and making women look pathetic.

Annabel Newton, you let the side down.

- Herald on Sunday

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