Thorbjorn Olesen has been suspended by the European Tour pending a charge of sexual assault. But his name has been dragged through the mud – and we should know better, writes Alex Perry
You may have read some stories about Thorbjorn Olesen in the last few days.
Now we didn’t cover this incident when it broke, and I’ll explain why. In my column last week, we decided it would be wrong to name Olesen after a British newspaper printed a story about the European Tour star, claiming he had sexually abused a woman on a flight from Nashville to London following the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, as well as another series of accusations against Olesen.
The reason? We couldn’t stand it up. I gave the Metropolitan Police a call that morning and they confirmed a man fitting the description of Olesen had been arrested, but they couldn’t name him. I called British Airways and got the same answer.
Of course golf media had a field day with it and it has now been confirmed that it was, indeed, Olesen involved in the incident.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “A man has been charged in connection with an incident on an inbound flight to Heathrow Airport on Monday, July 29.
“Jacob Thorbjorn Olesen, 29, of Redcliffe Road, Kensington and Chelsea, was charged by postal requisition on Thursday, August 1 with sexual assault, being drunk on an aircraft and common assault.
“He is due to appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, August 21.”
Olesen’s lawyer, Paul Morris, also released a statement that read: “Thorbjorn has cooperated fully with the police during their investigation, but while the legal proceedings are still ongoing he unfortunately cannot comment on this matter at this time.”
The European Tour have, in turn, suspended Olesen until the case is settled.
I feel like it’s time for all publishers to be forced to study a refresher on media law because Olesen’s name was dragged through the mud on both sides of the Atlantic without a speck of evidence other than an unnamed witness who bumbled out some sanctimonious middle-class nonsense about how you would “expect this sort of behaviour on a budget airline, not first class of British Airways”. (And they’re right. All the times I’ve flown with budget airlines I can’t move for people groping each other and pissing where they like.)
Suddenly the newspaper’s word was gospel and social media was buzzing with the gossip. Who doesn’t love gossip? Twitter accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers were quoting the witness but, more importantly and more worryingly, we were all hanging on the word of a single report.
The fact it turned out to be right means nothing. When there are clicks to be had, you take risks, us at NCG included. But there are still laws in place for the media to protect court cases. That’s the reason the police, or Olesen, or his legal team, or the European Tour can’t say any more than they have. When I went to journalism college, you had to wait for official confirmation before naming someone who had been arrested. Perhaps I missed the bit where the law changed. Or maybe it’s just that nobody cares anymore. Either way, it doesn’t feel right to me.