Walsh wins discovery of documents in 'Sun' case


MUSIC PROMOTER Louis Walsh has been told in the High Court he is entitled to discovery of documents relating to the Sun newspaper’s coverage of Garda inquiries into allegations of a sex attack by him on a man in a nightclub toilet.

The judge said that not long after the publications, it emerged that the allegations were false and Leonard Watters (24) was prosecuted in respect of having made them.

He said the newspaper publishers now unreservedly accepted that the allegations against Mr Walsh were false and that he had been completely exonerated in this respect.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill ruled yesterday that Mr Walsh was entitled to all documents associated with the investigation by the newspaper’s crime writer Joanne McElgunn into assertions and allegations concerning himself and Watters.

The judge also directed that the newspaper provide all documents identifying or referring to any payments made or offered by the newspaper to Watters and statements of any of McElgunn’s expenses attached to the story.

He said Mr Walsh was entitled to any documentation referring to the booking of a hotel room for Watters in June 2011 and directed discovery of bank statements, text messages, emails and records of phone calls relating to the story.

The judge’s orders also apply to the Sun’s Irish editor Michael McNiff, Sun journalist Gordon Smart and Dominic Mohan, editor of the newspaper.

This order relates to any information or documents they possess relating to the preparation of the article that was headed “Louis Probed Over ‘Sex Attack’ on Man in Loo”.

Mr Walsh has sued Newsgroup Newspapers Limited, which publishes the Sun, for damages, including aggravated and exemplary damages, for defamation of character arising out of the article, which was published in the Sun newspaper on June 23rd, 2011, and on their website thesun.co.ukon the same date.

Mr Justice O’Neill said the articles were to the effect that Mr Walsh was being investigated by the police in respect of a claim by Watters that Mr Walsh had indecently or sexually assaulted him in the toilet of a Dublin nightclub.

In a reserved judgment yesterday, the judge said that in the particulars supporting Mr Walsh’s claim for aggravated and exemplary damages, he had alleged Ms McElgunn had met Watters in the Newbridge Hotel, Navan, bought him dinner and offered him a sum of money on behalf of the Sun if he agreed to make a complaint to An Garda Síochána about being assaulted by Mr Walsh.

Thereafter on the same day, it was alleged that Ms McElgunn travelled with Watters to Pearse Street Garda station so he could make the agreed complaint against the plaintiff, which he had done.

Mr Walsh further alleged that Ms McElgunn had paid Mr Watters €700 and promised to make further payments after the story was printed.

Mr Justice O’Neill said communications between the newspaper’s journalists and persons other than Watters and members of An Garda Síochána concerning publication of the article would be protected from disclosure by journalistic privilege.

The judge said the defendants relied on the defence of qualified privilege and claimed that, by consenting to the publication of Mr Walsh’s rebuttal of the allegations against him, he was consenting to the publication of the existence of the allegations.

Mr Justice O’Neill said that while journalistic privilege existed to protect the proper functioning of journalism, the allegations made by Mr Walsh relative to his claim for aggravated or exemplary damages, if true, could well merit the description of improper journalism.

The purpose of the privilege was to ensure that the flow of information from the public to journalists was preserved.