Kerrang! Loses ‘Sex Act’ Case

A heavy metal band tour manager has been awarded £40,000 in libel damages against a magazine that claimed he was caught masturbating at work.

Publisher Emap Metro said the allegation, which appeared in the January 2006 edition of rock magazine Kerrang!, concerned clandestine but ordinary sexual behaviour that was not defamatory, and was also true.

The article containing the allegation warned readers to "prepare to be disgusted" by the "sickest interview ever" with Bullet For My Valentine.

It included a comment from the band’s drummer Michael Thomas – more commonly known as Moose – in which he claimed the band’s tour manager in Germany in December 2005 was found masturbating at his desk.

Although Mark Stickland wasn’t named, he was the band’s manager at the time.

Acting for Stickland, William McCormic told High Court Judge Justice Tugendhat that the incident never happened.

He said his client, who lives in Nottingham, was a "fairly ordinary guy" who took a quiet pride in doing his job well and enjoyed the respect of friends and acquaintances.

"What’s being said is that when he should have been at work, he engaged in activity which was lewd, sexual and, effectively, he could not control his sexual impulses," McCormic explained.

Stickland, who denied the incident, said the article had made him feel "angry, humiliated, hurt and upset" as it had portrayed him as "a sexual deviant."

He told the High Court he felt very awkward picking up the phone and asking people for work.

"The bands I work with are all heavy metal bands and, in the heavy metal business, everyone reads Kerrang!"

Emap Metro had earlier refused his offer of £4,999 plus an apology to settle the case.

After the January 17th hearing, Stickland, who has worked for bands in Europe, the U.S. and Australia, told BBC News, "All I ever wanted to do was clear my name and I believe that is what’s happened.

"I’m very relieved it’s all over – it’s been a year to get where we are."

The publisher was refused permission for a High Court appeal after the unanimous jury verdict, although it can still apply directly for a Court of Appeal hearing.