Bailey v Irish Mirror Group Ltd & Others

 
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THE CIVIL COURT

IAN BAILEY
PLAINTIFF
and
IRISH MIRROR GROUP LIMITED INPEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS LIMITED INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS UK LIMITED TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED INDEPENDENT STAR LIMITED NEWS GROUP NEWSPAPERS LIMITED TELEGRAPH GROUP LIMITED
DEFENDANTS
Abstract:

Defamation - Libel - Newspaper articles alleging that plaintiff violent towards women generally and ex-wife in particular - Whether articles suggesting that plaintiff murderer or murder suspect - Justification - Whether defendants publications protected by plea of justification - Articles suggesting plaintiff engaged in suspicious activities which would tend to implicate him in murder - Whether plea of partial justification proven in respect of those publications - Defamation Act 1961, section 22.

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JUDGMENT DELIVERED BY HIS HONOUR JUDGE PATRICK MORAN ON MONDAY, 19TH JANUARY 2004 - DAY 11

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I hereby certify the following judgment to be a true and accurate transcript of my shorthand notes of the evidence in the above-named matter.

APPEARANCES
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For the PLAINTIFF:

MR. JIM DUGGAN BL
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Instructed by:

MURPHY & LONG SOLICITORS
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For the DEFENDANTS:

MR. PAUL GALLAGHER SC
MR. HOLLAND SC
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Instructed by:

MS. KARYN WOODS
MS. SINEAD RYAN
McCANN FITZGERALD
SOLICITORS (1ST, 4TH,
6TH DEFENDANT)
MR. HUGH HANNIGAN,
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McALEESE & CO.

(2ND DEFENDANT)
MR. DONAGH CROWLEY
ARTHUR COX SOLICITORS
(3RD, 7TH DEFENDANTS)
MR. PAUL GILL
DILLON EUSTACE
(FOR 5TH DEFENDANT)
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THE JUDGMENT WAS DELIVERED AS FOLLOWS ON MONDAY, 19 JANUARY 2004.

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JUDGE MORAN: The time has now arrived for me to give judgment in this case. First of all, I want to thank the parties in the case for their assistance to me in providing me with the various legal references during the course of the trial and, secondly, to the defendants for providing me with an overnight transcript. That has been of particular assistance. It really meant I did not have to take copious notes and I was able to observe the various witnesses in the trial and

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their behaviour and indeed the parties during the trial. It’s a wonderful facility to have and I wish that the Court Service would provide it for us Circuit Judges when we are dealing with criminal trials here. They do not and that is one of the disadvantages we have.

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Madame Sophie du Plantier was brutally murdered in West Cork in December of 1996 and her body was discovered on 23 December. The result of that terrible tragedy was that there was, first of all, an elaborate Garda investigation as there should have been and, secondly, there was extensive press and media coverage. The press and media apparently descended upon West Cork to an enormous degree.

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I suppose one reason was because Madame du Plantier came from a relatively well known French family and background and, secondly, because it happened in the very remote area of West Cork but a very beautiful area and an area known to many people as a holiday destination.

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The plaintiff in this case Mr. Bailey is by occupation a journalist. Once this news broke about the discovery of the body of Madame du Plantier he became involved in reporting the story of the murder. He made numerous reports and he furnished numerous reports to various newspapers. I think the first one was on December 28 December and right through until in the fact the day of his arrest on 10 February to the Star and he was reporting for Paris Match and the Sunday Tribune and he provided a lot of information

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During that time of course one can only presume and assume that the area of West Cork was full of rumour and talk, reports and counter-reports as to what had happened this unfortunate lady over the weekend of the 21 st/22nd December. I am sure that fingers were pointed in various directions and there were various stories. I am not concerned with those.

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In any event the plaintiff was arrested on the morning of 10 February of 1997 and he was taken to Bandon Garda Station and apparently when he got out of the Garda car he was photographed.

When the Gardai make an arrest in any criminal
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offence and particularly in a murder case, I suppose in any serious criminal offence, they do it for very strong reasons and they usually do it because they have a strong suspicion as to the involvement of the injured party and I suspect that’s what they did on this particular day.

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The plaintiff complains about his arrest and indeed of his treatment by the Gardai, but that is not a matter for this Court. If he has any complaints about his treatment by the Gardai there are other authorities and I think counsel referred to them, namely the Garda Complaints Board.

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He was photographed and he was named and following this arrest there was further publicity. That is natural and that is normal. He was arrested as a suspected person involved in the murder of Madame du Plantier. Various newspaper articles appeared and he

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complains of the treatment he has received from seven different publications, I think eight or nine articles in all.

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I said at the outset of this case that this was not a murder trial. These are civil claims and they are actions in defamation. As the lawyers know, whatever about the general public, there is a difference in the standard of proof required in a criminal case as against a civil case. I was anxious that this trial should never take on the mantle of a criminal trial. I am afraid once or twice it may well have and I am sorry it did, but I want to emphasise this was not a criminal trial, not a criminal investigation and it

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is not one.

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I would have to say that evidence was given indeed during the course of these trials and these cases which would not be admitted for legal reasons in a criminal trial. Any findings of fact that I make in this case are made and based on the balance of probabilities and nothing else.

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The Plaintiff brings seven actions arising from the different articles. The first one is against the Mirror for a publication of 14 February of the year 1997; the second one against the Sunday Independent of 20 July of 1997; the third one is against the Independent on Sunday for an article of 26 April of 1998; the fourth is against the Times Newspapers: One against the Times itself in respect of a report of 11 February of 1997; and the other one against the Sunday Times in respect of an article on

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16 February of 1997. The next one is against the Star and there are two incidents there: One of 22 February of 1997; and the other of 19 December of 1997. The next one is the Sun and the date is 14 February of 1997. The final one is the Daily Telegraph for 3 March of 1997. I do not propose going through these articles.

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I have read them on several occasions myself. They have been read to me here, they have been dealt with in depth by counsel on behalf of the plaintiff and in particular by counsel on behalf of the defence.

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I just do not see any point in wasting time going through them again.

The first defence in these cases is one
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of justification, the second one is one of partial justification and then the defendants argue that if neither of those succeed they go on to rely on consent, on qualified privilege and contributory negligence.

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The law in the case dealing with what is defamation was put very clearly to me by Mr. Gallagher in his submission to me and in his closing address. He says that if one is defamed one must deal with the ordinary and natural meaning of the words. He quoted to me an extract from Duncan and Neill on Defamation

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which is as follows:

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“In order to determine the natural and ordinary meaning of the words which the plaintiff complains of, it is necessary to take into account the context in which the words were used and the mode of publication. Thus, a plaintiff cannot select an isolated passage in an article and complain of that alone if

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other parts of the article throw a different light on that passage.”

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Mr. Gallagher also told me that it was for me to determine the sense in which the words would reasonably have been understood by an ordinary man in the light of generally known facts and meaning of words.

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The allegation of libel means that the person the libel is published about his standing has been reduced in the eyes of an ordinary person. The defendants have assisted me by referring me to the Charleston case and the judgment of Lord Bridge in which he said:

“At first blush this argument has
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considerable attractions, but I believe that it falls foul of two principles which are basic to the law of libel.

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The first is that where no legal innuendo is alleged to arise from extrinsic circumstances known to some readers, the natural and ordinary meaning to be ascribed to the words of an allegedly defamatory publication is the meaning including inferential meaning which the words would convey to the mind of the...

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