Chambers v Times Newspapers Ltd

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr. Justice Morris
Judgment Date01 January 1999
Neutral Citation[1998] IEHC 229
Date01 January 1999
Docket Number[1996 No. 5094P]

[1998] IEHC 229

THE HIGH COURT

No. 5094/1996
CHAMBERS v. TIMES NEWSPAPERS LTD & WITHEROW

BETWEEN

CIARAN CHAMBERS
PLAINTIFF

AND

TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED

AND

JOHN WITHEROW
DEFENDANTS

Citations:

RSC O.31 r29

DPP, PEOPLE V CHAMBERS UNREP SPECIAL CRIM COURT 29.11.1994

KELLY V IRELAND 1986 ILRM 318

SPECIAL CRIMINAL COURT RULES 1975 SI 234/1975 RULE 25

OFFENCES AGAINST THE STATE ACT 1939 S41

AIB V ERNST & WHINNEY 1993 1 IR 384

FUSCO V O'DEA 1994 2 IR 93

Synopsis

Practice and Procedure

Third party discovery; defamation proceedings arising out of media report of trial of plaintiff before the Special Criminal Court; documents sought relating to both the plaintiff's criminal conviction and the refusal of an appeal relevant to the defence of defamation proceedings; whether an order for discovery against a third party should only be made where the documents sought to be discovered are not available as a consequence of an Order for discovery made against a party to the proceedings; whether documents sought to be discovered are in the possession of the plaintiff; O.31 r.29 Rules of the Superior Court Held: Adjournment of present application with liberty to re-enter if documents not forthcoming from the plaintiff; no satisfactory evidence that the documents were either not available to be discovered by the plaintiff or that proper discovery will not be made; third party discovery will only be made where there is no alternative or it is in the interest of justice (High Court: Morris P 17/11/1998)- [1999] 2 IR 424 - [1999] 1 ILRM 504

Chambers v Times Newspapers

While the court should be slow to put someone who was not a party to the action to the trouble of making discovery such an order should only be made against a third party in circumstances where the documents were not readily available to be discovered by a party to the action or where in the particular circumstances of the case the interests of justice required that it should be done. While it would appear prima facie that the plaintiff had been convicted of serious offences in the Special Criminal Court it did not follow that he would not make full and proper discovery. As a general principle third party discovery should only be ordered where there was no realistic alternative available. If the documents were not available to be produced on discovery by the plaintiff, the court would make the discovery order sought by the defendants. The High Court so held in adjourning the application generally with liberty to re-enter.

1

Mr. Justice Morrisdelivered on the 17th day of November, 1998

2

This matter comes before the Court by way of a Notice of Motion seeking an order pursuant to Order 31 Rule 29 of the Rules of the Superior Court directing the Registrar of the Special Criminal Court to make discovery on oath of (I) All witness statements and other documents furnished to the Accused and/or relied upon by the Prosecution in a criminal prosecution entitled People (Director of Public Prosecutions) v Ciaran Chambers in respect of which the Plaintiff was tried by the Special Criminal Court and convicted of a number of offences on the 29th November, 1994. (II) The transcript of the said trial.

3

The Notice of Motion also seeks further or in the alternative an Order directing the Registrar of the Court of Criminal Appeal to make discovery on oath of (I) all witness statements and other documents furnished to the Accused and/or relied upon by the Prosecution in a criminal prosecution entitled People (Director of Public Prosecutions) v Ciaran Chambers in respect of which the Plaintiff was tried by the Special Criminal Court and convicted of a number of offences on the 29th November, 1994. (II) Transcript of the said trial. (Ill) The Order of the Court of Criminal Appeal made in February 1996 dismissing the appeal of the Plaintiff from the said convictions.

4

The facts of this case insofar as they are relevant to the present application can be summarised as follows:

5

The first named Defendant is the Publisher of the Sunday Times Newspaper of the 18th February 1996. The second named Defendant is the Editor of the said newspaper. In a statement of claim delivered by the Plaintiff on the 22nd July 1996 he claims that in the saidnewspaper the Defendants and each of them falsely and maliciously wrote and published of and concerning him defamatory matter. In summary these allegations were to the effect that the Plaintiff made the bomb which exploded in Canary Wharf in London that the Police in Ireland and England believed that the Plaintiff had made the bombs that the Plaintiff was still at large having jumped bail four years previously, that the Plaintiff in the believe of the Police built most of the IRA bombs that exploded in England, that the Plaintiff used a mortar to attack Heathrow Airport and that the Plaintiff was being sought by the Gardai in Ireland. It also alleged that the Plaintiff was a leading member of the IRA and a member of the Army Council of the IRA and that the Plaintiff was a person who would engage in indiscriminate bombing and mass destruction.

6

The defence delivered by the Defendants on the 13th November, 1996 admit the writing and publication of the words complained of and allege that the words are true in substance and in fact. The Defendants plead justification for the said words and in the particularsthey allege that on the 29th November 1996 following trial in the Special Criminal Court, the Plaintiff was convicted of five offences and was sentenced to a total of seven years imprisonment.

7

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