Desmond -v- Times Newspapers Ltd & Ors, [2009] IEHC 271

Docket Number:1997 7917 P & 1998 5041 & 5044 P & 1999 8966 P
Party Name:Desmond, Times Newspapers Ltd & Ors
Judge:Dunne J.
 
FREE EXCERPT

THE HIGH COURT1997 7917 P

BETWEEN

DERMOT DESMONDPLAINTIFFAND

TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITEDDEFENDANTAND

THE HIGH COURT1998 5039 P

BETWEEN

DERMOT DESMONDPLAINTIFFAND

TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED, RORY GODSON AND JOHN McMANUSDEFENDANTSAND

THE HIGH COURT1998 5041 P

BETWEEN

DERMOT DESMONDPLAINTIFFAND

TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED, RORY GODSON, JOHN MANUS AND JOHN BURNSDEFENDANTSAND

THE HIGH COURT1998 5044 P

BETWEEN

DERMOT DESMONDPLAINTIFFAND

TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED, RORY GODSON, JOHN McMANUS AND JOHN BURNSDEFENDANTSAND

THE HIGH COURT1999 8966 P

BETWEEN

DERMOT DESMONDPLAINTIFFAND

TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED, RORY GODSON AND JOHN McMANUSDEFENDANTSJUDGMENT of Ms. Justice Dunne delivered on the 12th day of June 2009

The defendant in the above entitled proceedings has issued a series of motions in the respective proceedings seeking the following relief against the plaintiff in each of the proceedings:

"An order pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of this Honourable Court or, in the alternative, pursuant to O. 122, r. 11 of the Rules of the Superior Courts, 1986, dismissing the plaintiff's claim against the defendants herein (or, in the alternative, striking out that claim) by reason of the inordinate and inexcusable delay in the prosecution thereof by the plaintiff."

The grounds on which the application was made is similar in each case and the response of the plaintiff is similar in each case. For that reason it was convenient to deal with the motions in each case together.

Background

In order to give some indication as to the nature of the individual proceedings I propose to set out by way of background an outline of the matters at issue in each of the proceedings. For this purpose, I gratefully adopt the factual background as set out in the submissions of the defendants herein.

(a) Dermot Desmond v. Times Newspapers Limited; Record No. 1997/7917P.

These proceedings ("the 7917 proceedings") were instituted by plenary summons dated the 9th July, 1997, and arise out of two articles published in the Sunday Times on the 22nd June, 1997, under the headline "Desmond advised Dunne not to give evidence to Tribunal" and "Dunne advised not to testify".

The articles refer to conversations between the plaintiff and Noel Smyth, solicitor, in which it was stated that the plaintiff had sought to persuade or advise Ben Dunne not to give evidence to the Tribunal of Inquiry (Dunnes payments) and that Mr. Dunne believed that such persuasion or advice was motivated by a desire on the part of the plaintiff to protect Charles Haughey, the now deceased former Taoiseach, from adverse findings of that Tribunal. The plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that the articles were published falsely and maliciously.

The defendant denies that the articles are defamatory, pleads justification in certain specific respects, denies that the plaintiff has suffered damage and further relies, inter alia, on the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Following the close of pleadings, there were discussions between the parties in relation to discovery, but nothing further was heard from the plaintiff's solicitors after a letter of the 10th October, 2000.

(b) Dermot Desmond v. Times Newspapers Limited, Rory Godson and John McManus, Record No. 1998/5039P.

These proceedings ("the 5039 proceedings") were instituted by plenary summons dated the 29th April, 1998, and arise out of an article published in the Sunday Times Newspaper on the 8th February, 1998, under the headline "Desmond rescued Haughey's son's firm". The article referred to a payment of IR£100,000 made by the plaintiff, through an investment company controlled by him, International Investment Underwriting Limited, to Celtic Helicopters Limited, (the company controlled by Ciaran Haughey, son of Charles Haughey) in 1995 to cover flying hours for executives. As of the time of the writing of the article in 1998, IR£56,150 of time had been used.

The defendants deny that the article was defamatory, deny certain innuendos pleaded by the plaintiff, pleaded justification in certain specific respects, deny damage and further rely, inter alia, on the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Again, following the close of pleadings, there were discussions between the parties in relation to discovery, but nothing was heard from the plaintiff's solicitors after a letter of the 10th October, 2000.

(c) Dermot Desmond v. Times Newspapers Limited, Rory Godson, John McManus and John Burns; Record No. 1998/5041P.

These proceedings ("the 5041 proceedings") were also instituted by plenary summons dated the 29th April, 1998, and arise out two articles published in the Sunday Times Newspapers on the 11th January, 1998, under the headlines "Telecom cash paid Haughey's boat bill" and "Just good friends"'

The first article related to the sum of approximately IR£75,000, which was paid from the accounts of Freezone Investments Limited, a company controlled by the plaintiff, which was a substantial beneficiary of the sale of the former Johnston Mooney & O'Brien's site to Telecom Éireann, to the Haughey family. The second article related more generally to the plaintiff's business career.

The defendants deny that the articles were defamatory, deny that innuendos pleaded by the plaintiff, plead justification in certain specific respects, deny damage and further rely, inter alia, on the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Again, following the close of pleadings, there were discussions between the parties in relation to discovery, but nothing was heard from the plaintiff's solicitors after a letter of the 10th October, 2000.

(d) Dermot Desmond v. Times Newspapers Limited, Rory Godson, John McManus and John Burns; Record No. 1998/5044P.

These proceedings ("the 5044 proceedings") again were instituted by plenary summons on the 29th April, 1998. They arise out an article published in the Sunday Times Newspapers on the 15th February, 1998, under the heading "DPP under fire from missed cases".

The article referred to a number of Tribunal and Inspectors' Reports which had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions over a number of years which had not resulted in any prosecutions being taken. The article referred to the fact that John Glackin, the Inspector appointed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to investigate issues arising from the purchase of the site in Ballsbridge by Telecom Éireann had found that the plaintiff had given untruthful evidence in relation to his involvement in the transaction, which had cost the state millions of pounds. The article further noted that no prosecution had ever been taken.

The defendants deny that the article or the meanings contended for by the plaintiff were defamatory, pleaded justification in certain specific respects, deny that the plaintiff had suffered damage and further rely, inter alia, on the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Again, following the close of pleadings, there were discussions between the parties in relation to discovery, but nothing was heard from the plaintiff's solicitors after a letter of the 10th October, 2000.

(e) Dermot Desmond v. Times Newspapers Limited, Rory Godson and John McManus: Record No. 1999/8966P.

These proceedings ("the 8966 proceedings") were instituted by plenary summons dated the 8th September, 1999, and arise out an article published in the Sunday Times Newspapers on the 8th August, 1999, under the heading "Haughey's son was on Ryanair payroll".

The article referred to a payment of IR£10,000 made to Celtic Helicopters Limited, a company controlled by Ciaran Haughey, which was made by NCB, a stockbroking firm then owned by the plaintiff, through Ryanair.

The defendants deny that the article or the meanings alleged by the plaintiff were defamatory, pleaded justification, deny that the plaintiff has suffered damage and further rely, inter alia, on the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Again, following the close of pleadings, there were discussions between the parties in relation to discovery, but nothing was heard from the plaintiff's solicitors after a letter of the 10th October, 2000

As can be seen from the summary of the background set out above, reference was made to a letter of the 10th October, 2000, from the plaintiff's solicitors and for completeness I should just refer to that letter. It stated that the plaintiff would swear his own affidavit of discovery and confirmed that the plaintiff's solicitors would not require specific categories of discovery to be agreed. It concluded: "We await hearing from you".

The applications

As can be seen from the above outline of the background to theses proceedings, the first set of proceedings commenced in 1997 and the last of the series of actions commenced in 1999. All of the proceedings have been dormant since 2000. Apart from these proceedings, the plaintiff issued one further set of proceedings against these defendants entitled The High Court, Record No. 1998/5045P, between Dermot Desmond, plaintiff and Times Newspapers Limited, Rory Godson and John Burns, defendants ("the 5045 proceedings"). Those proceedings were revived by the plaintiff in 2005/2006 and an application was brought by the defendants in those proceedings to dismiss on grounds of delay. I will refer later to the judgment of MacMenamin J. in those proceedings in which he made an order dismissing the proceedings but placed a stay on the order subject to conditions. That judgment and order is under appeal by the defendants to the Supreme Court.

The basic complaint on the part of the defendants in these proceedings is that the proceedings have lain dormant since the 10th October, 2000. The events at issue in the proceedings range over a period in the 7917 proceedings to the late 1980s: in the 5039 proceedings to 1995; in the 5044 proceedings to 1990 and so on. Ms. Claire Callanan in the affidavits grounding the various applications complained as to the...

To continue reading

REQUEST YOUR TRIAL