Dana’s relatives ordered to put up security for defamation case

Susan Stein and her daughter allege singer defamed them during a TV interview in 2011

Dana Rosemary Scallon’s sister and niece have taken separate High Court defamation actions against the singer and former presidential candidate. Photograph: The Irish Times

Dana Rosemary Scallon’s sister and niece have taken separate High Court defamation actions against the singer and former presidential candidate. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Dana Rosemary Scallon has won an appeal that means her sister and niece are required to put up security for legal costs should they lose a defamation action they are taking against the singer and former presidential candidate.

The case arises out of a 2011 television interview during the presidential election campaign when Ms Scallon was asked about allegations of sexual abuse made against her brother John Brown.

Susan Stein and her daughter Susan Gorrell, both living in the US state of Iowa, have taken separate High Court actions alleging Ms Scallon defamed them during the interview broadcast on TV3 in October 2011.

Ms Scallon, they claim, made statements which meant both women maliciously made up claims that Ms Gorrell was sexually abused between 1971-81 by her uncle, John Brown, who lived in England.

The women claim the allegations of abuse are true.

Subsequently, Ms Gorrell made a complaint to English police and Mr Brown (62), of Bracknell, Berkshire, was cleared in July 2014 of charges of indecent assault of two girls aged under 13 and 16 at several locations in Northern Ireland and England in the 1970s and 80s.

He denied all claims against him.

In the meantime, Ms Stein and Ms Gorrell brought defamation proceedings against Ms Scallon, who has denied their claims.

The claim was also against TV3, which has since apologised and paid compensation.

In advance of the trial Ms Scallon sought a security of costs order. She claimed the legal costs of the case would amount to some €450,000 while the other side estimated them at €189,000.

Costs order

A year ago, the High Court refused to make a security for costs order, which Ms Scallon appealed.

On Friday, a three-judge Court of Appeal overturned that High Court decision and ordered Ms Stein and Ms Gorrell to put up €150,000 in security.

Ms Justice Maire Whelan, on behalf of the court, said Ms Scallon had a bona fide defence upon the merits to the claims of her sister and niece.

This case was over statements about a “private dispute” between Ms Scallon and her sister and sister and it got media coverage at the time because Ms Scallon was a presidential candidate at the time, she said.

It concerned a defamation claim and cannot be reasonably characterised, as was done by the High Court, as being litigation involving “allegations of sexual abuse in a civil context”, she said.

She also found Ms Stein and Ms Gorrell had failed to discharge the burden of proof in relation to the issue of their impecuniosity.

The High Court had erred in placing reliance on reported excerpts from an affidavit which was apparently alluded to in a non-relevant Supreme Court decision of years before, Ms Justice Whelan said.

The High Court also erred in entering in an assessment of the merits of Ms Scallon’s defence of truth.

In relation to the amount of security for costs, Ms Justice Whelan concluded the amount suggested by the Stein/Gorrell side was an under-statement of the likely exposure.

It was customary to require security to be about one-third of the costs which a defendant would incur and she set the figure at €150,000.

She also noted an insurance policy Ms Stein and Ms Gorrell had obtained in England, indemnifying them for legal costs, was no longer in place.