Court increases payout to GAA player over photo

A NEWSPAPER has been ordered by a High Court judge to increase to €11,000 its payment of damages to a young GAA footballer over…

A NEWSPAPER has been ordered by a High Court judge to increase to €11,000 its payment of damages to a young GAA footballer over publication of a photograph in which his private parts were exposed.

The Carlow Nationalist is also facing legal costs of more than €100,000 following lengthy High Court proceedings over the publication in June 2005.

The newspaper had been ordered by Carlow Circuit Court in June 2006 to pay Richard Sinnott (24), Clonegal, Co Carlow, €6,500 in damages for breach of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional harm and negligence arising from the publication.

The newspaper had, on pages one and three of its sports section, published pictures of Mr Sinnott taken while he was playing in a GAA match. His private parts were visible in one photograph and Mr Sinnott had given evidence of being very upset by the publication.


Last year, when rejecting the newspaper's appeal against the findings of the Circuit Court after a seven-day hearing, Mr Justice Declan Budd ruled the publication of the offending photograph was negligent and resulted from "a publishing mess".

The judge, who earlier in the appeal had observed the photograph featured "all the paraphernalia of human reproduction", said it "strained all credulity" that the publication was simply accidental.

He believed, on the balance of probabilities, that the problem with the photograph must have been seen by the photographer and the pagemakers. However, he also accepted the evidence of the newspaper's sports editor, Paul Donaghy, who had said he was not aware of the offending nature of the photograph and would not have published it if he was.

Mr Donaghy had described the publication as "a blunder" and was "stricken with horror" at its publication, the judge said.

The case was before Mr Justice Budd again yesterday and he directed the amount of damages be increased to €11,000 plus costs in favour of Mr Sinnott.

He refused to certify, for determination by the Supreme Court, a point of law in the case relating to the imposition of damages for breach of a constitutional right to privacy arising from a negligent action.

Jeremy Maher SC, for the newspaper, had sought determination by the Supreme Court of certain issues arising from the publication, arguing the issues involved were of major importance for the media. He said the Supreme Court should be asked to determine if the publication amounted in law to conduct of a deliberate, conscious and unjustified nature and breached Mr Sinnott's constitutional right to privacy.

Simon Boyle SC, for Mr Sinnott, said no point of law arose which required determination by the Supreme Court. He referred to various High Court decisions which, he argued, had already decided the issues raised.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times