Irish Mail beats first gag bid under new defamation act

The Irish Mail on Sunday has beaten an attempt to gag it from reporting allegations that a charity founder made inappropriate sexual advances to males in Kenya.

Michael Meegan had sought a non-publication order from the High Court in Dublin under Ireland’s new Defamation Act.

Meegan, who holds a British passport, helped to establish a charity called Icross – the International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering – and had sought to stop the Irish Mail on Sunday publishing an article alleging that he had made advances to Kenyan men or youths – claims that he denied.

He also sought an order prohibiting the paper from breaching his right to privacy over his sexuality.

The application is believed to be the first to have been made since the Act came into force on New Year’s Day.

Section 33 (1) of the Act says: “The High Court, or where a defamation action has been brought, the court in which it was brought, may, upon the application of the plaintiff, make an order prohibiting the publication or further publication of the statement in respect of which the application was made if in its opinion – (a) the statement is defamatory, and (b) the defendant has no defence to the action that is reasonably likely to succeed.”

The President of the High Court, Justice Nicholas Kearns, rejected Meegan’s application at a hearing on Monday, saying that said such a “draconian” measure would only be appropriate if the paper had no evidence to back up its case.

Kearns found that the newspaper had shown reasonable grounds for its claim that it might succeed at the trial of any libel action, and that there was no suggestion it would not be able to pay damages should any libel action succeed.

The judge said he was also taking into account an undertaking given by Sebastian Hamilton, the newspaper’s editor, that it would not now publish certain allegations.

Kearns refused to stay his decision pending an appeal to the Supreme Court and ordered Meegan to pay the costs of the proceedings.

Meegan’s lawyers confirmed last night that they would not be taking the case to the Supreme Court.

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