Defamation News


Settlement of Compensation for Defamation by a Supermarket Manager Approved in Court

A judge at the Ennis Circuit Court has approved a settlement of compensation for defamation by a supermarket manager in favour of a seventeen-year-old girl.

On 5th November 2014, the unnamed teenager visited the Aldi store on Francis Street in Ennis with her infant brother, and an adult member of the Traveller community who had her own infant son with her.

While the party were in the store, they were approached by another customer, who told them she had heard the manager of the store tell a security guard to “keep an eye on the tinkers in aisle three”. The customer told the party that in her opinion the comment was made about them.

As the party continued to move around the store, the security guard followed them – maintaining “overt surveillance” over their activities. Eventually the adult Traveller confronted the store manager with what she had been told. The store manager denied the accusations, but the previous customer intervened and confirmed what she had heard the store manager say.

After telling her father what had happened in the Aldi store, he made a claim for compensation for defamation by a supermarket manager on her daughter´s behalf, alleging that she had been distressed, upset, humiliated and embarrassed.

It was claimed that the girl was very conscious of people looking at them, and upset at the thought that people might meet her outside of the store with a false impression that she did nothing to create. The girl is currently studying for her Leaving Certificate and hopes to train in Limerick for a third-level qualification in hairdressing and beauty therapy.

Aldi made an offer of compensation for defamation by a supermarket manager amounting to €7,500, but without an admission of liability or an apology. The girl´s father was not happy with the offer but, at the Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys heard that the family´s solicitor had recommended acceptance of the offer in the circumstances.

Judge Keys approved the settlement of compensation for defamation by a supermarket manager after hearing the girl´s Barrister tell the court “the pejorative and disparaging comment made by the store manager indicates a reckless form of racial stereotyping due to my client’s membership of the Traveller community”.

Minister Reilly Settles Defamation Case against Associated Newspapers

Minister James Reilly has settled his defamation case against Associated Newspapers – the publishers of the Irish Mail on Sunday – for an undisclosed amount.

On 7th October 2012, the Irish Mail on Sunday published an article entitled “Reilly Link to Developer of Second Clinic”, alleging that the then Minister for Children had links with the property developer building an HSE primary care centre in Swords, Dublin.

In the article it was claimed that Dr Reilly had previously sold land to the same developer for the construction of luxury homes and implied that Dr Reilly had abused his position as Minister for Children by granting a public contract to a developer with whom he had personal links.

Minister Reilly took legal action in November 2012, and his defamation case against Associated Newspapers was scheduled to be heard at the High Court. However, before proceedings started, Judge Iseult O´Malley was told that the case had been settled for an undisclosed amount.

The hearing still went ahead and – instead of deciding the defamation case against Associated Newspapers, a representative from the Irish Mail on Sunday read an apology to Dr Reilly in which it was acknowledged that the “grave allegation” was without foundation and should not have been made.

The apology continued by saying any implication that the Minister had exploited his position in the Health Department was “wholly without foundation” and the Irish Mail on Sunday was happy to unreservedly apologise to Dr Reilly for any damage or distress caused by the article.

Former Archbishop Settles Defamation Case against RTÉ

A former Archbishop of Benin has settled his defamation case against RTÉ, whose Prime Time documentary “Mission to Prey” had alleged he was a paedophile.

In May 2011, RTÉ broadcast a Prime Time documentary “Mission to Prey”, in which it was alleged that Richard Burke (66) – a member of the Kiltegan Fathers and a former Archbishop of Benin in Nigeria – had an improper relationship with a Dolores Atwood when she was aged 14 in the 1980s.

As a result of the broadcast, Mr Burke brought a defamation case against RTÉ, claiming that the material used in the documentary branded him as a paedophile. He denied the claims that he had an improper relationship with Ms Atwood while she was a teenager, although he admitted having consensual sex with her when she was 20 years of age.

At the hearing to determine the defamation case against RTÉ, Mr Burke told the court he did not know he was going to be featured in the documentary until it was broadcast and he had been given no opportunity to respond to the allegations – despite Prime Time investigators stating that he had declined to be interviewed for the program.

The court heard that RTÉ denied the claims of defamation, and that Ms Attwood stood by her allegations. Representatives from Prime Time acknowledged that their statement suggesting that Mr Burke declined to be interviewed was incorrect and apologised to the cleric. The hearing was closed without a verdict being reached, as an agreement was reached between the two parties.

Outside the court, RTÉ´s Managing Director of News and Current Affairs – Kevin Bakhurst – told reporter that RTÉ had not paid any compensation to Mr Burke, but was contributing to his costs of bring the defamation case against RTÉ. Mr Burke´s solicitor said that the matter had been resolved to his client´s satisfaction.

David Speedie Awarded €85,000 at High Court Defamation Hearing

Former soccer player David Speedie has been awarded €85,000 compensation for claims he was suspected of criminal activity at a High Court defamation hearing.

Speedie brought his court action after the Sunday World claimed that the former Chelsea and Liverpool soccer player had links with criminal figures and that Gardai had reason to suspect he had been involved in criminal activity.

According to testimony given at the High Court defamation hearing, the newspaper published two articles in April 2011 which gave the impression Speedie was involved in smuggling or the transportation of drugs and had links to gangland crime.

During the five-day High Court defamation hearing, Speedie told the court the articles drew untrue conclusions from the fact that his fiancée is the sister of a woman married to Ritchie Thompson – the brother of convicted criminal “Fat” Freddie Thompson.

Speedie told the jury that the allegations damaged his reputation as a football pundit and led him fearing for his life and those close to him. He said he did not associate with criminals and drug dealers, or socialise with Ritchie Thompson.

The Sunday World, its editor Colm MacGinty and the reporter that wrote the story – Mick McCaffrey – denied that they had defamed Speedie and said that the content of the newspaper articles was true. McCaffrey said that his report was faithful to the notes he had taken on the day of the phone interview with Speedie.

At the end of the High Court defamation hearing, the jury was asked to consider eight questions regarding whether the content of the articles implied Gardai had reason to suspect that Speedie was engaged in criminal activity and associated with known criminals.

After two days of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favour of Speedie and awarded him €85,000 compensation. The jury also recommended that the Sunday World publish an apology. Mr Justice John Hedigan told the jury while they may recommend the publishing of an apology, he could not compel the Sunday Mirror to do that.

Woman and Son Secure Compensation for Defamation on Facebook against the HSE

A woman and her son are to receive €40,000 compensation for defamation on Facebook after the settlement of their claim was approved at the High Court.

The woman and her son – who cannot be named for legal reasons – made their claim for compensation for defamation on Facebook following the child being placed in foster care in 2011. It was alleged that while the boy was in the care of foster parents, they posted a number of Facebook entries containing pictures of the boy and making “false, untrue and highly defamatory” statements about his mother.

The woman claimed that the pictures and the comments accompanying them should never have been published on social media, and that – as the Health Service Executive (HSE) was responsible for placing her son in the care of the foster parents – the HSE was in breach of its statutory duty of care. The mother and son also claimed that their rights to privacy under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights had also be breached.

Following further allegations that the woman had been subject to ridicule and contempt, and her character had been damaged, the HSE settled the claim for compensation for defamation on Facebook for €40,000. However, as the claim was partly made on behalf of a child, the settlement had first to be approved by a judge.

Consequently the settlement hearing was held at the High Court before Mr Justice Kevin Cross. After hearing the circumstances of the case, Judge Cross approved the settlement of compensation for defamation on Facebook and awarded costs against the HSE.

“Rogue Reporter” Settles Claim for Defamation by a Former Employer

A journalist, who was called a “rogue reporter” after being made redundant from her job, has settled her claim for defamation by a former employer.

Gemma O´Doherty is an award-winning journalist who broke a number of high-profile stories for the Irish Independent over the course of her eighteen years with the newspaper. In April 2013, Gemma was investigating the wiping of driving licence penalty points by the Irish police force when she called at the home of the former Irish police commissioner, Martin Callinan – who also had penalty points deleted from his licence.

A complaint was made to the newspaper, following which Gemma was told she was being made redundant – the only employee of Independent News & Media to suffer that fate. The Irish Independent maintained that the Callinan visit played no part in her departure; however Gemma was subsequently described as a “rogue reporter” by Stephen Rae – editor-in-chief of the Irish Independent – for approaching the former police commissioner without editorial permission.

Gemma launched an unfair dismissal action and made a claim for defamation by a former employer against Stephen Rae and Independent News & Media. In December 2014, her unfair dismissal action was resolved out-of-court, and this week the High Court was told that Gemma´s claim for defamation by a former employer had also been settled.

The terms of the settlement have not been revealed, but they included an apology to Gemma from Stephen Rae and Independent News & Media which was read out to the court. In the statement, the newspaper and its editor-in-chief acknowledged that Gemma “acted at all times in a diligent and professional manner” and apologised unreservedly for the stress and hardship she and her husband had suffered as a result of the newspaper´s actions.

Speaking after the hearing, Gemma said: “Journalists have an obligation to hold power to account, be it in An Garda Síochána, Dail Eireann, the health service or other institutions of the state. We must be allowed to do our work without fear or favour, defending the public interest and the rights of citizens, especially victims of injustice and the marginalised”.

O´Brien awarded €150,000 Compensation for Defamation by the Irish Daily Mail

Digicel chairman Dennis O´Brien has been awarded €150,000 compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail following a seven-day hearing at the High Court.

On 22nd January 2010, the Irish Daily Mail published an article entitled “Moriarty is about to Report, No Wonder Denis O´Brien is Acting the Saint in Stricken Haiti”. The article commented on O´Brien´s presence in earthquake-struck Haiti shortly before the release of Mr Justice Moriarty´s report into the issuing of the second mobile phone license to O´Brien´s Esat Digifone company.

O´Brien claimed that the article implied his involvement in the Haiti Relief Effort was hypocritical, and intended to deflect attention away from adverse findings in the Moriarty Report. He claimed compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail on the grounds that the article gave the impression that his presence in Haiti was motivated by self-interest and was an “ingenious feint”.

The claim for compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail was contested by the publication´s Editor-in-Chief – Paul Field – and the reporter who had written the article – Paul Drury – who said it was a piece of opinion honestly held on a matter of public interest and, while it might be cynical, there was no agenda against Denis O´Brien.

The claim for compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail went to the High Court in Dublin, where it was heard by a jury before Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne. During the seven-day hearing O’Brien claimed that the article was “nasty, spiteful and grubby” and caused damage to his good name and reputation; while the defendants claimed that there was no evidence to support the argument that the newspaper article was malicious.

In his closing statement, O´Brien´s barrister asked the jury to find in his client´s favour, and not only to award him compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail, but also aggravated damages for maliciousness. However, after three hours of deliberation, the jury decided that the article – although not in the public interest – was not malicious, and awarded O´Brien €150,000 compensation for defamation against the Irish Daily Mail.

Priest Settles Libel Claim against RTÉ for Undisclosed Amount

A libel claim against RTÉ, made by a priest wrongly accused of having sex with a minor and fathering a child, has been settled for an undisclosed amount.

Father Kevin Reynolds – the parish priest of Ahascragh in County Galway – made the libel claim against RTÉ following a “Prime Time Investigates” broadcast on May 23rd in which he was accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in Kenya in 1982, fathering a child by the girl and then abandoning the child.

Despite Father Reynolds denying the allegations, supporting his denial with an email from his former bishop in Kenya and offering to take a paternity test, the programme was broadcast to an estimated audience of 519,000 viewers. The allegations were treated as fact on the following morning’s “Morning Ireland” and broadcast worldwide on the Internet.

With support from the Association of Catholic Priests, the libel claim against RTÉ was scheduled to be heard in the High Court. But, before the hearing could commence, it was announced that the libel claim against RTÉ had been settled for an undisclosed amount which included both compensation for libel and aggravated damages for RTÉ failing to review its position and remove any reference to Father Reynolds from the programme when there was reasonable doubt about the accuracy of the accusations.

Speaking in court, Jack Fitzgerald SC – counsel for Father Reynolds – said that RTÉ and reporter Aoife Kavanagh had choices prior to the broadcast, and the ones they made was “utterly misjudged and wrong” and had an “utterly devastating impact” on Father Reynolds´ life. The court heard that Father Reynolds had suffered “irreparable damage” to his reputation, his life was utterly altered, and he was removed from his home and his community.

Mr Fitzgerald then read out the terms under which Father Reynolds had agreed to settle his libel claim against RTÉ. In addition to the undisclosed settlement of compensation, RTÉ will be required to publish a correction order under Section 30 of the Defamation Act 2009. The correction will be broadcast on RTÉ’s Prime Time and Morning Ireland programmes and published in the Connaught Tribune, The Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Examiner.

Guesthouse Owner Awarded €70,000 Compensation for Defamation on the Radio

A guesthouse owner from County Waterford has successfully recovered compensation for defamation on the radio after his premises was described as a brothel.

Vincent O´Toole is a highly respected member of the Waterford community having been a former ships master and racehorse breeder. Now aged 84, Vincent is the owner of the Maryland House guesthouse in Mall, which was described in 2006 by the Sunday World newspaper as a brothel.

Vincent sued the paper for defamation and won his case in 2007. However, the court case against the Sunday World was not the end of the saga as, in August 2008, an episode of the Gerry Ryan Show on 2FM carried a “Nob Nation” sketch in which Maryland House was referred to as “a byword in Waterford for prostitution”.

Vincent made a claim for compensation for defamation on the radio against RTÉ – the operators of 2FM – who, although apologising for any distress Vincent may have experienced, denied that the sketch was defamatory. RTÉ said that the reference to his guesthouse could only have caused him limited emotional damage and limited damage to his reputation.

However, Vincent claimed in his legal action that tourists had arrived at his guesthouse expecting it to be a brothel, and that the gardaí had to be called after he and his wife had been verbally abused. Vincent added that RTÉ had published a guide to acceptable program standards in June 2008, and that these standards had been ignored during the broadcast of the “Nob Nation” sketch.

The case went to the High Court in Dublin, where a jury heard RTÉ again apologise for defaming the guesthouse on 2FM, but say that the damage was limited by the fleeting nature of the reference to the guest house in the broadcast and the generally jocose tone in which the reference was delivered. The jury awarded Vincent €70,000 compensation for defamation on the radio – Vincent later commenting that he felt vindicated for bringing the claim for compensation for defamation on the radio.

Jury Awards Compensation for being Defamed by Ryanair

A former model has been awarded compensation for being defamed by Ryanair after her character was attacked in a press release released by the airline.

In November 2008, Rosanna Davison – a former model and winner of the Miss World contest in 2003 – criticised Ryanair´s charity calendar for failing to feature any models from Ireland. The airline responded by issuing a press release in which it was claimed Ms Davison was “bordering on racism” and which stated that there was nothing as unattractive as jealousy.

After seeking legal advice Rosanna made a claim for compensation for being defamed by Ryanair. The airline disputed that there was anything defamatory in the press release and contested the claim. The defamation case consequently went to the High Court, where the jury was told by Ryanair´s legal representatives that Rosanna was making a federal production out of a storm in a teacup.

In response, Rosanna´s senior counsel told the jury that she had no option but to claim compensation for being defamed by Ryanair after the company had refused to issue an apology. He claimed that it “defied any logical analysis” to say that the press release was not defamatory, and that Ryanair´s response to a request for an apology had been “brutish, aggressive and disproportionate”.

The barrister said that the jury should not only award Rosanna compensation for being defamed by Ryanair, but also aggravated damages for the way in which the airline had approached the case. Prior to retiring for deliberation, the jury was told by the judge to keep their feet on the ground if they found in favour of Rosanna. He said that any compensation for being defamed by Ryanair the jury decided to award should reflect the distress suffered by Rosanna and not be based on a punishment to Ryanair.

When the jury returned, it awarded Rosanna €40,000 compensation for being defamed by Ryanair and €40,000 for aggravated damages. Speaking after the hearing, a Ryanair spokesperson said that the company would not be contesting the verdict of the jury, as it would cost less money to settle the claim than it would to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.