Writer created celebrity TV series - judge

Tue, May 17, 2011, 01:00

A HIGH Court judge has ruled that writer and journalist Fiona Looney was the originator of the idea behind the RTÉ television show Celebrity Bainisteoir.

Mr Justice George Birmingham said he was fully satisfied the idea was Ms Looney’s alone and she was entitled to have that recognised.

Mr Justice Birmingham was giving his judgment as he dismissed a case by businessman Patrick Kinsella against RTÉ and Ms Looney alleging they stole his idea for the show. He also awarded costs of the seven day action to the defendants against Mr Kinsella who indicated he intended appealing to the Supreme Court.

The judge said he was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Ms Looney was the originator of the idea and that this case by Mr Kinsella was a “deeply unfortunate” one where “blind obsession” had “overwhelmed judgment and common sense”.

Mr Kinsella, Callow Hill, Newtown, Co Wicklow, was not legally represented. He had conducted his own case alleging he submitted to RTÉ an idea in August 2007 for a show entitled Top Coach/Top Team.

Evidence was given by Ms Looney and a number of RTÉ witnesses that the idea for the show was first submitted to RTÉ by Ms Looney in 2004. Both RTÉ and Ms Looney denied the claims they had stolen Mr Kinsella’s concept.

At the end of the case yesterday, Mr Justice Birmingham gave his judgment. In it he noted the first programme in the Celebrity Bainisteoirseries was broadcast on March 30th, 2008.

While Mr Kinsella had not seen it, he was told about it by a friend who was aware Mr Kinsella had been working on a sports reality television programme. After viewing the programme, Mr Kinsella engaged in correspondence with RTÉ and issued legal proceedings in February 2009.

It had been contended that, if RTÉ was up front at an earlier stage, the proceedings might not have gone to trial but this suggestion was utterly without substance, the judge said. The truth was that RTÉ had supplied Mr Kinsella with an affidavit which established conclusively the idea was first submitted to them by Ms Looney in 2004, three years before Mr Kinsella was considering a sports reality programme.

Referring to several witnesses called by Mr Kinsella, the judge said each witness made it clear there was “no merit whatsoever” in his claims and had copperfastened the defendants’ position.

The judge said he was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Ms Looney was the originator of the idea for the television series in 2004 and had presented it to RTÉ in that year.

He added that the litigation was misconceived and oppressive and Mr Kinsella’s conduct had been vexatious and amounted to a clear abuse of process. The case should never have been taken or conducted in the way it was.

Paul O’Higgins SC, for RTÉ, supported by Marian McKeone, for Ms Looney, sought an order preventing Mr Kinsella bringing further proceedings unless he had prior leave of the High Court.

While he could fully understand why such an order was sought, it would be very unusual to make it in circumstances where a litigant had failed in just one set of proceedings, the judge said. He would not make such an order at this stage.