Prince Andrew’s former girlfriend Koo Stark has received substantial damages from the Daily Mail after the newspaper wrongly referred to her as a “porn star”.
Stark, who now works as a photographer, brought the legal action over a November 2019 piece that referred to Andrew as a “Duke of Hazard” with “very shady friends” and included a photo of Stark from the film The Awakening of Emily captioned “The prince and the porn star”.
It referred to Andrew having had “an astonishing relationship with a soft porn actress”, referencing her role in the 1976 film.
Stark played the title role in the film, which is described by IMDb as a “romance” movie. The film website summarised its plot: “The year is 1928 and Emily, aged 17, returns home from school in Switzerland. At her family estate in the English countryside, it seems everyone is trying to seduce her.”
The Daily Mail article falsely characterised Stark’s role in the film as pornographic. Stark’s lawyer, Francis Leonard, said: “The words at issue meant, and would have been understood to mean, that the claimant is a porn actress who has made her living participating in films which are made for distribution in the pornographic market.
“The true position is that Ms Stark has never appeared in a pornographic film or posed for pornographic photographs. None of her work could properly be described as pornographic or indeed as ‘very shady’. In particular, the film The Awakening of Emily is a coming-of-age drama and not a pornographic film.”
Leonard said the article was also published on MailOnline but was amended just over nine hours later to correct the reference to Stark, before having all references to her removed in 2021.
He continued: “The defendant’s publication of the article and the false statements about her caused the claimant very considerable distress and upset.
“The defendant has accepted that the article’s reference to Ms Stark was defamatory and without justification … The defendant has agreed to pay the claimant substantial damages.”
The case was also brought against the then-editor and deputy editor Geordie Greig and Gerard Greaves.
Gemma McNeil-Walsh, acting for the Mail’s parent company, said: “The defendant through me offers its sincere apologies to the claimant for the distress, embarrassment and upset caused to her by the publication of the Daily Mail article. The defendant accepts there was and is no truth in the allegation advanced about the claimant and is happy to set the record straight.”
An apology was also published in Friday’s print edition of the Daily Mail.
Stark’s brief relationship with Andrew in the early 1980s, before he married Sarah Ferguson, has made her an ongoing topic of tabloid fascination. There has been renewed media interest in her since Andrew was stripped of his royal honours after paying millions of pounds to settle a sexual assault case brought by Virginia Giuffre.
Judge Mrs Justice Collins Rice said: “I note the very full apology, the payment of substantial damages and this statement. Ms Stark is entitled to consider herself, and be considered as, fully vindicated.”