Louis Walsh is paid €500,000 by 'Sun' over false sex assault claim
X-Factor judge Louis Walsh has received an apology and €500,000 from the Sun newspaper at the High Court over an article concerning false claims that he had sexually assaulted a man in a Dublin nightclub.
Mr Walsh sued News Group Newspapers, publishers of the Sun, for defamation in an article arising from false allegations made by Leonard Watters (24).
Mr Watters, from Navan, Co Meath, was sentenced last January to six months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to making two false reports to gardaí that Mr Walsh had groped him in a toilet in Dublin’s Krystle nightclub on April 9th, 2011.
Yesterday, Declan Doyle SC, for Mr Walsh, told president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns the defamation case had been settled.
Mr Walsh was in court to hear an apology read on behalf of the paper by Eoin McCullough SC, who said that, in its editions of June 23rd, 2011, the Sun reported Mr Walsh was being investigated in relation to an alleged sexual assault on Mr Watters.
It transpired that the allegation was false and the Sun fully accepted that the alleged assault did not take place and that Mr Walsh was “entirely innocent”, the statement said.
“The Sun unreservedly apologises to Mr Walsh for the distress caused to him as a result of this article,” the apology stated.
Afterwards, Mr Walsh’s solicitor, Paul Tweed, said the Sun had agreed to pay Mr Walsh €500,000 in damages, plus costs.
An emotional Mr Walsh said he was “very relieved” and would not have wished what had happened to him on his worst enemy.
“This has had a terrible effect on me,” he told reporters. “It was all lies.” While he was “very satisfied with this total vindication for me”, he remained “very angry at the treatment I received at the hands of the Sun”. While no amount of money would compensate him for what he had gone through, he was really glad to have achieved “this decisive and categoric outcome”, he added.
He had the utmost respect and time for most journalists, with whom he had always enjoyed a good relationship, he added.
“I am therefore absolutely gutted and traumatised that these allegations against me should have been published, particularly as I had made it clear at the time there was not one iota of truth in it. And I was totally bewildered as to who would have made up this story.”
Mr Tweed said the case was “a prime example” of the serious damage that could be inflicted on an individual, whether or not they were well known, by the publication of allegations that could “circumnavigate the globe in a matter of seconds”.
The serious consequences of worldwide dissemination online of a defamatory story was “a fundamental problem” which he hoped publication of the Leveson report in Britain (on the role of the press and police in a phone-hacking scandal) would address, he said.
“We are not trying to gag the press or stop investigations, but if there was a strong body that we could have rung ... to get them to stop the story for 24 hours, we could have provided proof that Louis wasn’t even in the place at the time and all this would have been avoided,” he said.
In his action, Mr Walsh alleged that on June 15th, 2011, Mr Watters met Sun journalist Joanne McElgunn in a Navan hotel. During the course of a dinner, she offered to pay him a sum of money if he agreed to make a complaint to gardaí “about being assaulted” in the toilet.
That same day, McElgunn allegedly travelled to Pearse Street Garda station in Dublin so that the complaint could be made, it was claimed.