Louis Walsh settles defamation case

 

Louis Walsh today received an apology and €500,000 in damages from the Sun newspaper over a false story that he sexually assaulted a man in a Dublin nightclub.

The X Factor judge sued the media group after the Sun published a false story that he sexually assaulted a man in a Dublin nightclub.

Unemployed dance teacher Leonard Watters was jailed for six months in July for wrongly accusing Walsh of groping him in Krystle nightclub after a Westlife concert in April 2011. He has recently been released.

Watters, a 25-year-old father-of-two, alleged he had been sexually assaulted by Walsh in a toilet at the club. His first complaint was made to gardaí outside the club within hours of when the false attack was alleged to have taken place.

Walsh took legal action against the Murdoch group over its coverage of Garda inquiries into allegations. He sued for damages, including for aggravated and exemplary damages, over an article published on June 23rd, 2011, with the headline “Louis Probed Over ‘Sex Attack’ on Man in Loo”.

Eoin McCullough, senior counsel for News Group Newspapers, read a statement to the High Court in Dublin this morning apologising to Walsh.

“The Sun published an article in its editions of 23 June 2011, in which we reported that Louis Walsh was being investigated in relation to a sexual assault on Leonard Watters,” he said.

“In fact it transpired that Leonard Watters had made a false statement to An Garda Siochána, and he has since been convicted in relation to this matter.

“The Sun fully accepts that the alleged assault did not occur in the first place and Louis Walsh is entirely innocent of any such assault.

“The Sun unreservedly apologies to Louis Walsh for any distress caused to him as a result of our article.”

Afterwards, Walsh’s lawyer Paul Tweed, revealed the Sun has agreed to pay €500,000 in damages plus costs.

An emotional  Walsh said afterwards that he would not wished what had happened to him “on my worst enemy”.

While no amount of money would compensate him for what he had gone through, he was really glad to have achieved “this decisive and categorical outcome today”.

He really wanted to thank his lawyers “because they got me through this.” He said despite this “total vindication” today, he remained very angry at the treatment he received at the hands of the Sun “and the story did start with the Irish Sun”.

He had the utmost respect and time for most journalists with whom he had always enjoyed a good relationship. “I am therefore absolutely gutted and traumatised that these allegations against me should have been published, particularly as I had made it clear there was not one iota of truth in it. And I was totally bewildered as to who would have made up this story.”

Although the perpetrator has since been convicted as a result of concocting the allegations, this did not stop the story being spread all around the world as a result of the Sun’s headlines, he said.

Earlier this year, the High Court heard it was alleged the Sun paid €700 to Mr Watters and promised to make more payments to him before a journalist accompanied him to Pearse Street Garda station where he made his false complaint against Walsh.

It was an operation directed by the Sun “to take out Louis Walsh as a public person”, his counsel Jim O’Callaghan told the court.

The Sun had accepted the accusation was false but initially denied defamation and claimed it acted fairly and reasonably in relation to the publication.

Walsh sought damages including aggravated and/or exemplary damages in which it is alleged that on June 15th, 2011, Watters met Sun journalist Joanne McElgunn in a hotel in Navan.

During the course of a dinner she offered to pay him a sum of money if he agreed to make a complaint to gardaí about “about being assaulted” in the toilet, Mr Walsh says in his statement of claim for his pending libel action.

That same day, Ms McElgunn allegedly travelled to Pearse Street Garda station in Dublin so that the complaint could be made, it is claimed.

Five days later, it is alleged, Watters met up again with Ms McElgunn and he was “encouraged and enticed by her, on behalf of the defendant, to repeat the false statements to her” for publication in the Sun.