Papers want Defamation Bill enacted


THE NATIONAL Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) have called for the speedy enactment of the Defamation Bill and a reconsideration of jury trials in libel cases in the light of the Martin McDonagh v Sunday World case.

Expressing its "bitter disappointment" at the outcome of the case, the NNI said: "In essence, a convicted criminal and tax evader was awarded €900,000 by a jury for damage to his reputation. Our legal system facilitated that award, whilst the same system limits the damages that may be awarded to a paraplegic in a personal injury claim to damages of no more than approximately 50 per cent of that. Such a personal injury claim is heard by a judge sitting alone."

The NNI added that Irish law and procedures, with the exception of defamation, have undergone substantial reform. "However, juries still hear defamation actions in the High Court, a matter upon which NNI has made numerous submissions to Government. Juries cannot be advised or guided as to appropriate levels of damages by the parties to the action or even by the presiding judge, which is a nonsense. This recent award bears no correlation to acceptable and appropriate values in contemporary society."