An Irish High Court judge has ordered The Sun to hand over documents associated with its report of a sexual assault complaint made against music promoter Louis Walsh which later turned out to be false.
The Sun has accepted that the claim was false and is facing a legal bid from Walsh for it to hand over details of its sources.
According to the Irish Times, a legal judgement states Walsh is entitled to” all documents associated with the newspaper’s crime writer Joanne McElgunn’s investigation into assertions and allegations concerning Walsh and Leonard 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.”
The order applies equally to other senior journalists who may have had involvement with the 23 June 2011 story headed: “Louis probed over ‘sex attack’ on man in loo”.
Walsh is seeking libel damages over the story.
The Sun is defending the claim arguing that by publishing Walsh’s rebuttal of the accusations the promoter was giving his tacit approval to publication of the story.
The paper is also claiming qualified privilege – that it was honest reporting on matter of public interest.
The disclosure of journalistic sources as part of a libel claim could set a dangerous precedent. News International has already shown itself willing to disclose numerous journalistic sources as a result of the Elveden Met probe into bribe allegations. It will be interesting to see how it reacts now to this civil action in an Irish court.
Meanwhile, The Irish Sun reported that it “strongly rejects allegations by Mr Walsh’s legal team that money was paid to Leonard Watter”.