Coffey v Iconic Newspapers Ltd t/a The Kilkenny People

JudgeMr. Justice Bernard J. Barton
Judgment Date23 November 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] IEHC 673
Docket Number[2016 11369 P]
CourtHigh Court
Date23 November 2018

[2018] IEHC 673


Barton J.

[2016 11369 P]




Media – Defamation – Jury – Application to discharge – Defendant seeking to introduce evidence

Facts: The plaintiff considered he had been defamed in an article published by the defendants. The defendants sought to introduce evidence that a witness considered the article to be a “joke”, and the plaintiff now applied to discharge the jury on the basis the proposed evidence was prejudicial.

Held by Barton J, that the motion would be refused. The Court was persuaded that the line of what was permissible to ensure fairness had not been crossed, and the matter could be put before the jury. Dawson v Irish Brokers Association [1998] IESC 39 and Ryanair & Ors v Van Zwoll & Ors [2017] IEHC 798.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Bernard J. Barton delivered on the 23rd day of November, 2018

This is an application brought by the Plaintiff to discharge the jury in a defamation suit on the ground that counsel for the Defendant had evinced an intention to introduce and had sought to adduce on the cross examination of the Plaintiff impermissible evidence as to the meaning of an article about which he complains and published by the Defendants. The essence of the objection is that putting the evidence of a witness who had been identified by the Plaintiff, the former Irish rugby international Mick Galwey, to the effect that he considered the impugned article to be a joke trespassed impermissibly on a function which is the exclusive preserve of the jury.


The Plaintiff contends this was a deliberate attempt to prejudice the jury as to meaning which cannot be corrected by a direction of the Court or by way of examination of the witness since the latter course, in particular, would inevitably involve an inquiry into the witness's understanding of the article and thus its meaning, the very mischief which the rules of evidence as to admissibility in a defamation action are designed to prevent. Moreover, that the evidence was likely to have had an impermissible and prejudicial impact on the jury was exemplified by the reports of the previous day's proceedings in three national newspapers. The Irish Times and Irish Independent reported that Mr. Galwey would be coming to court to give evidence that he regarded the article as a ‘complete joke’ and furthermore in the Examiner that his comment at Thomand Park ‘here comes Coffey the robber’ was ‘all banter’.


Counsel for the Defendants, Mr. Fanning SC, opposing, submitted that the application was entirely misconceived. The only person the Plaintiff had identified by name as having made any comment to him arising from the impugned article was Mick Galwey. It was he who had sent an email to the Plaintiff's cousin, Richard Coffey, which he then forwarded and which had first alerted the Plaintiff to the existence and content of the article. The email had been read into the record of the Court by the Plaintiff's counsel who then invited him to comment on the content. The Plaintiff...

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