The first reserved judgment on the Defamation Act, 2009

Four Courts dome, via the Courts.ie websiteSection 28(1) of the Defamation Act, 2009 (also here) provides:

A person who claims to be the subject of a statement that he or she alleges is defamatory may apply to the Circuit Court for an order (in this Act referred to as a “declaratory order”) that the statement is false and defamatory of him or her.

Today, in an important decision, (that has been overshadowed by the coverage given to Doherty v Government of Ireland [2010] IEHC 369 (03 November 2010)), the first reserved judgment on the 2009 Act has been handed down on an application pursuant to this section (and another action seeking a declaration is pending):

Porn offender still capable of having character defamed, judge rules

A convicted porn user who had openly admitted his guilt and had sought psychiatric help is still capable of having his “residual” character defamed, a judge decided today.

Judge Joseph Matthews said that 34-year-old Barry Watters, of Hazelwood Avenue, Dundalk, Co Louth, had suffered a substantial loss of reputation through his guilt, conviction and imprisonment on pornographic charges. But he could not reasonably be said to be in the same category as a convicted prisoner who refused to accept his guilt, remained in denial and do absolutely nothing with no remorse, contrition, acceptance of wrong doing or show any intention to rehabilitate or not re-offend.

Judge Mathews told barrister Hugh Mohan, S.C., who appeared with James Mc Cullough, for Watters, that their client retained a residual reputation capable of being damaged by allegations suggested in an article in The Star on Sunday in September last. Watters had asked the Circuit Civil Court judge to direct the newspaper to publish an apology for stating he had formed “a seedy and weird relationship” in prison with Larry Murphy and referring to Watters as “a twisted pervert.” …

Judge Mathews said Mr Watters was entitled to a declaratory order that the article was defamatory and the court directed publication of a correction of the defamatory statement. The Act provided for the parties to agree the content of the correction and apology and if they were unable to do so the court could direct publication of the court’s judgment. He granted Mr Watters, who had not sought damages against The Star on Sunday, an order prohibiting the newspaper from further publishing the false and defamatory statements it had made.

The case was adjourned for a week to facilitate consideration of an appeal.

Read more here and here. Update: Irish Times.

This kind of action is exactly what the reforms in the Act were designed to achieve, a quick resolution without an application for damages. I look foward to reading the full text of the decision, and if anyone can supply it to me, I would be very grateful.

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