Solicitor awarded €140,000 after TV3 mistakenly identified him

As he left court the day after the broadcast, a man spat in David Christie’s face

A solicitor has been awarded €140,000 in High Court damages against TV3 over a broadcast which mistakenly identified him as another lawyer who was before a court on criminal charges. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

A solicitor has been awarded €140,000 in High Court damages against TV3 over a broadcast which mistakenly identified him as another lawyer who was before a court on criminal charges. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

A solicitor has been awarded €140,000 in High Court damages against TV3 over a broadcast which mistakenly identified him as another lawyer who was before a court on criminal charges.

Dublin-based David Christie sued the station after he was wrongly identified in an evening news report on November 11th, 2013, as solicitor Thomas Byrne who was later jailed for 12 years for fraud.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley said words saying Mr Byrne was accused of 50 counts of theft and forgery involving €52 million were unfortunately accompanied solely by footage of Mr Christie making his way, on his own, to the Criminal Courts of Justice.

Mr Christie, who represented Mr Byrne in that case, demanded an apology and compensation.

TV3 said what had happened was “an innocent mistake due to an editing error” and sincere apologies were offered. It also offered to broadcast a clarification and apology, but disputed that the piece was grossly and seriously defamatory.

It also said because Thomas Byrne was well known, anyone who recognised Mr Christie would be well aware he was David Christie and not Thomas Byrne.

Mr Christie rejected TV3’s proposals and the station went ahead and broadcast an apology on November 15th, 2013.

Mr Christie sued and TV3 sought to have the matter dealt with under the 2009 Defamation Act whereby it would make an offer of amends which could be agreed between the parties or determined by a court.

The matter went before Ms Justice O’Malley for determination.

Mr Christie told the court of how he had told the cameraman on the day he was being filmed that his client (Mr Byrne) was not with him that day.

When he saw the broadcast, he was shocked.

The next day, as he left court with Mr Byrne, a man spat in Mr Christie’s face calling him “a fucking scumbag” and “a thief”, he said. He began receiving phone calls from former clients wanting to know if he had returned their deeds to the bank and similar questions. On one occasion, while socialising with some colleagues, a man approached him, grabbed him by his jacket and invited him outside for a fight, addressing him as a thief.

On another occasion while out with his wife, a man said to him “I thought you were locked up” before throwing a pint over Mr Christie’s coat.