31 JANUARY 2007

The Duchess of York, who has just been named Mother of the Year in the US, was putting her protective parental instincts into practice this week - not with her two daughters, but Celebrity Big Brother contestant Jo O'Meara. The 47-year-old royal has pleaded for an end to the treatment being meted out to the former S Club singer after seeing her break down in an interview on GMTV.

"I didn't watch (Big Brother) and I don't condone anything that was said or done," said Fergie. "But I know what it's like to be vilified. I've made mistakes." Apparently Fergie was so moved by what she saw on the breakfast TV show she felt she had to intervene and call up. "I saw this girl who was broken," she said. "All I'm saying is, it's time to remove her from the stocks. Now it should stop."

Singer Jo, who along with Jade Goody and Danielle Lloyd was accused of the racist bullying of Bollywood beauty Shilpa Shetty, has said she has received no help from the reality TV show since leaving the Big Brother house. "I just feel that Big Brother had a TV show to make and have to do what they can to make good viewing. And unfortunately I was a guinea pig," explained the 27-year-old, adding, "It has ruined my life."

This latest demonstration of Sarah's protective instinct will come as no surprise to the Duchess' American fans, who have recently seen the flame-haired mum of two follow in the footsteps of Sex And The City author Candace Bushnell and designer Carolina Herrera in being voted Mother of the Year.

"Sarah was chosen because, despite everything she does - all her charity work, all her public speaking, all her work for Weight Watchers, all the books she has written - she is first and foremost a mother," said a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society, which presents the award.

Photo: ©
New US Mum of the Year Fergie, pictured with daughters Eugenie and Beatrice, has urged the British public to stop vilifying Big Brother contestant JoPhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: ©
The sympathetic Duchess rang breakfast TV show GMTV after watching an emotional interview with the pop singer (above). "It's time to remove her from the stocks," she says Photo: © GMTV

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