The sudden turnaround in fortunes, in less than a week, of Guinness family member Clare Irby, who started the week as a brazen hussy wreaking havoc on an airline and ended up pretty much exonerated, owes as much to the way the freelance agencies pushing stories out of the courts operate on the zingy and exciting knife edge of the truth as it does to a screw-up by the Crown Prosecution Service.
The agencies need to sell stories to the papers, so they need the stories to be as lurid as possible. It doesn’t help that audiences love a good courtroom drama and are inclined to believe anything, especially of a wealthy socialite. Irby was alleged to have boasted of taking opium, to have taken part in lewd behaviour with a fellow passenger whilst his girlfriend slept, to have let her child throw soiled nappies around the plane, to have drunk 12 glasses of wine and much more beside.
But an oversight by the CPS, which meant that the charge only related to the 20 minutes Irby spent in British Airspace, rather than the full 10 hour flight from India, reversed Irby’s fortunes within days. The freelance agencies were setting her up for an epic fall, which – had she been convicted – would have seen her only able to take the reality TV show celebrity “look at me I got drunk on a plane” route. Now, the only people with egg on their faces are the CPS and the freelance agencies.