Former Coolmore Stud employee loses appeal over publication of book

Stud’s solicitors wrote to Amazon website and bookshops warning of defamation

William Jones, author of “The Black Horse Inside Coolmore” outside the Four Courts yesterday after he lost his appeal. Photograph: Collins

William Jones, author of “The Black Horse Inside Coolmore” outside the Four Courts yesterday after he lost his appeal. Photograph: Collins

 

A former Coolmore Stud employee has lost his appeal over being refused injunctions preventing its lawyers writing to booksellers and distributors alleging his book about working there contained defamatory material.

William Jones, author of The Dark Horse Inside Coolmore, with an address at Dominic’s Court, Cashel, Co Tipperary, worked at the stud between 2006 and 2015 and later self-published his book via his company Gold Rush Publications.

He denies defamation and sought various injunctions, pending a full hearing of his case against Coolmore, restraining its lawyers writing to book distributors and retailers alleging the book contained defamatory material and seeking it not be sold.

Coolmore’s solicitors Arthur Cox had written to the Amazon website and bookshops referring to potential proceedings for defamation and noting the book included allegations of bullying and details of the deaths of two horses Mountjeu and Jude. The book was later withdrawn by a number of distributors.

Coolmore argued, under a December 2014 agreement compromising Mr Jones’s Labour Relations Commission claim over his employment at the stud, both sides agreed not to make any derogatory comments about each other at any time in the future and he had also undertook not to disclose any records relating to animals or clients of the stud.

High Court case

In June 2016, the High Court ruled that Mr Jones, who represented himself, had made out no arguable case entitling him to the injunctions.

He appealed but the Court of Appeal on Thursday dismissed his appeal. It will address cost issues next week.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan said Coolmore did not sue Mr Jones for libel. Mr Jones maintains his book is not defamatory and, if he is sued, he will defend it “line by line on the basis that it is true”, the judge said.

That was “the very thing” Coolmore sought to avoid happening and Mr Jones may welcome an opportunity to vindicate his position and justify his allegations, he said.

Mr Jones was, in his action, challenging Coolmore’s entitlement to circumvent him and avoid a libel action and yet succeed in restricting circulation of his book and inhibiting references to material in it.

The fact Mr Jones claimed he could prove the truth of everything in his book did not give rise to a cause of action against Coolmore over having its solicitors write their letters, he said.

The “decisive question” was whether Coolmore was entitled to write to distributors or booksellers warning or threatening them with legal action if they proceeded to deal with Mr Jones’s book.

Defamation Act

The judge said section 27 of the Defamation Act allows for a defence of “innocent publication” and Coolmore sought to exploit that provision by putting potential distributors and retailers on notice of its claims the book is defamatory.

Mr Jones was mistaken in his view that a person alleging defamation was not entitled to move directly against distributors and sellers without making an author a defendant, he said.

Coolmore’s solicitors’ letters notifying the relevant parties of its concerns meant those parties could either abandon further distribution or sale or go ahead with publication, thus jeopardising any defence of innocent publication.

That was a “legitimate legal manoeuvre” and the fact it had not been established by a court the publication was defamatory was “irrelevant”, the judge held.

He also dismissed as “groundless” claims by Mr Jones of bias on the part of the High Court or that his right to constitutional freedom of expression was breached by Coolmore’s actions.