Defamation action against newspaper struck out over delay

John Brown, brother of singer Dana Rosemary Scallon, sued over Irish Independent article

A defamation action by John Brown has been struck out by the High Court over a three-and-a-half year delay in prosecuting the case.

Mr Brown, brother of singer and former presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon, sued Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd (INIL) over an article published in the Irish Independent.

The article, which was published at the time of a pending prosecution against him for alleged indecent assault, contained a report from a UK news agency wrongly stating thtat a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Mr Brown (64), of Bracknell, Berkshire, who denied all claims, was cleared in July 2014 of charges of indecently assaulting two girls aged under 13 and 16 at several locations in Northern Ireland and England in the 1970s and 80s.


He later brought defamation proceedings against INIL and a number of associated companies.

INIL admitted it was the publisher of the article Mr Brown complained of but denied defamation.

The company asked the court last year to dismiss the case on grounds of delay by Mr Brown in prosecuting it. It also applied to have the matter dismissed against all the associated defendant companies.

Mr Brown opposed the application and argued the delay was not all on his side.

INIL said the delay had prejudiced it and the balance of justice required the case be dismissed.

It also pleaded that the article in question had been removed from its website and a correction published. It denied the words published were written and published falsely and maliciously or bore the meaning contended for by Mr Brown.

It said Mr Brown was an advisor to his sister during her 2011 presidential campaign in which she read a statement in which she referred to a malicious and false allegation against her and her family.

The article about her brother was published in good faith and in the course of, or for the purpose of, the discussion of a subject of public interest and did not exceed what was reasonably sufficient. It was fair and reasonable to publish it, it said.

Dismissing the entire action on Wednesday, Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan found this was a case of inordinate and inexcusable delay.

There was no action taken by Mr Brown between the service of his statement of claim and of notice of his intention to proceed with the case resulting in a three-and-a-half year, and potentially a four-and-a-half year delay in the case, she said.

It had been established in case law that a jury should not be asked to look back on what was a matter of public interest ten years ago, she said.

It would be at least June next year before this case could be heard, or later, she said. In the circumstances, these matters tipped the balance in favour of striking out the proceedings.