Abc v Def

JudgeMr. Justice Michael White
Judgment Date24 June 2014
Neutral Citation[2014] IEHC 680
CourtHigh Court
Date24 June 2014

[2014] IEHC 680


[No. 12527 P./2013]





Defamation – Interlocutory injunction – Right of privacy – Balance of convenience – Restriction of publicity

Facts: Following an ex parte interim injunction of the Court preventing the defendant from issuing the defamation proceedings which would identify the plaintiff, the plaintiff now came to the Court in the substantive proceedings seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant from revealing the identity of the plaintiff. The defendant contended that the plaintiff had caused loss of reputation to him by making false allegations of sexual abuse against him.

Mr. Justice Michael White continued the earlier order of the Court, which granted an ex parte interim injunction to the plaintiff. The Court observed that there must be serious issues that needed to be tried before applying for an interlocutory injunction for which the damages would not be an adequate remedy. The Court found that the plaintiff had never revealed the identity of the defendant except to the An Garda Siochana and the Health Service Executive; therefore, the plaintiff was not responsible for the unnecessary publicity of the defendant. The Court held that the institution of the defamation proceedings by the defendant against the plaintiff would cause irreparable damage and injury to the plaintiff, which would be a violation of a person's right to apply anonymously in proceedings to restrict publicity.


1. By ex parte docket of 13 th November, 2013, the plaintiff, ABC, applied urgently for an interim injunction preventing the defendant from issuing defamation proceedings which would identify the plaintiff.


2. An interim order in those terms was granted by Hogan J. on 13 th November, 2013.


3. The plaintiff issued a plenary summons on 14 th November, 2013, and a motion on notice to the defendant the intended plaintiff in the defamation proceedings.


4. The interim order has remained in place pending the interlocutory hearing which took place on 13 th and 14 th March, 2014. Further legal submissions were invited primarily in respect of a judgment delivered on the morning of 14 th March, by Gilligan J. in Mooney v. Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. These submissions were finalised on 9 th May.


5. The plaintiff and the defendant are known to each other.


6. The plaintiff in April/May 2013, found it difficult to cope psychologically and was admitted to hospital for psychological and psychiatric care in June 2013.


7. During this prolonged admission in the course of her therapy, the plaintiff alleged that she had been the victim as a child of sexual abuse by the defendant. The defendant denies this.


8. On disclosure to a counsellor at the hospital, the matter was reported by the counsellor to An Garda Síochána and HSE. The plaintiff gave a written statement to gardai on 17 th July, 2013.


9. The HSE in turn informed a designated officer appointed to deal with allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and the defendant was subsequently suspended from active ministry pending the outcome of the complaint. The defendant alleged that this occurred in a manner which disclosed identity and caused considerable trauma and damage.


10. The designated diocesan officer met with the plaintiff on 28 th October, 2013.


11. On 4 th November, 2013, the defendant's solicitor wrote to the plaintiff alleging that the complaint amounted to malicious lies and unless retracted, High Court proceedings for defamation would issue. The letter of 4 th November, 2013, stated as follows:-

"I act for (redacted) You have made utterly false and profoundly defamatory complaints against my client (redacted) to a diocesan designated officer for child protection in the diocese of (redacted). She in turn communicated these to (redacted). As a result of your malicious lies my client has been stood down from ministry and your malicious lies have attracted significant media attention."

Unless you immediately retract your baseless complaints against my client and unless you apologise to him on terms to be agreed with this office, which apology shall be disseminated by him as he sees fit, my instructions are to institute High Court proceedings in defamation against you and this letter will be relied on for costs. You must reply to my client's satisfaction on or before close of business on 7 th November next."


12. The plaintiff's solicitors replied on 7 th November, seeking an immediate undertaking not to name or identify the plaintiff in the intended proceedings. The letter stated:-

"At no time did our client seek to publish her complaints in the public domain thereby seeking to expose and/or defame your client. The complaints were made in private in a manner sanctioned by the Catholic Church."


13. The letter went on to say:-

"Given the nature of the complaint should your client issue the proceedings referred to in your letter, our client's constitutional right to privacy will be breached. In light of your correspondence, we are gravely concerned about our client's right to privacy. We require your client to provide an undertaking that in the event that he issues proceedings, he will not name and/or identify our client and/or in the alternative, your client will take all necessary and reasonable steps to protect our client's privacy."


14. The defendant's solicitors replied on 11 th November, 2013, refusing to give the undertaking but postponed the issue of proceedings until 14 th November. The plaintiff then applied for the interim injunction.


15. The psychiatric evidence presented to this Court revealed the plaintiff to be a person of fragile mental health, who nevertheless functions well in a demanding career. The psychiatric opinion is stark. Mr. James Morrison, Consultant Psychiatrist, in an affidavit of 11 th March, 2014, stated at para. 3:-

"I say that on examination, I found the plaintiff to be depressed, extremely anxious and I noted that she complained of having suffered panic attacks with palpitations, sweating tremors, difficulty in swallowing, weakness in her limbs and pressure on her head, all of which symptoms the plaintiff found very frightening. I further found from my examination of the plaintiff that she has frequent suicidal ideation and she feels that she and everybody else would be better off if she were dead. She has a marked loss of self confidence and self esteem and she also has a good deal of guilt feelings that she did not do something about the abuse to which she alleges she was subjected when it was happening to her."


16. At para. 7, Mr. Morrison went on to swear:-

"I say further that from my recent examination of the plaintiff, it is clear to me that the plaintiff feels that if her name becomes public knowledge in the context of the childhood sexual abuse which she alleges that she suffered at the hands of the defendant, she would not be able to continue with her career and she is convinced that the only course which would be left open to her in those circumstances would be to commit suicide. I say that it is my professional opinion that there is most unfortunately and regrettably a high probability of such an eventuality occurring in the event that the plaintiff's name is disclosed in the context of the present proceedings or in any...

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