Dana loses case requiring relatives to guarantee costs

Dana Rosemary Scallon has lost a High Court application requiring her sister and niece to put up security for legal costs should they lose a defamation they are taking against the singer and former presidential candidate.

The defamation action arises out of a 2011 TV interview, during the presidential election campaign, when she was asked about allegations of sexual abuse made against Dana’s brother John Brown.

Susan Stein and her daughter Susan Gorrell, living in Iowa, US, have taken separate High Court actions alleging Dana defamed them during the interview broadcast on TV3 in October 2011.

Dana, they say, made statements which meant both women maliciously made up claims Ms Gorrell was sexually abused between 1971-81 by her uncle, John Brown, who lived in England. They claim the allegations of abuse are true.

Subsequently, Ms Gorrell made a complaint to English police and Mr Brown, aged 62, of Bracknell, Berkshire, was cleared in July 2014 of charges of indecent assault of two girls aged under 13 and 16 at locations in Northern Ireland and England in the 1970s and 80s. He denied all the claims against him.

In the meantime, Ms Stein and Ms Gorrell brought defamation proceedings against Dana, who denied their claims. Dana then sought a security of costs order in advance of the trial. She claimed legal costs would amount to some €450,000 while the other side estimated them at €189,000.

The plaintiffs opposed the application saying it would bring their case to an end if they had to put up that sort of money. Ms Stein and Ms Gorrell had also obtained an insurance policy in England under which they were indemnified for legal costs, if their case was not successful, up to a limit of €150,000 each, the court heard. They have to pay the insurer if they win.

Dana’s lawyers argued the policy was so conditional it could not provide sufficient security for costs. Mr Justice Robert Eagar rejected Dana’s claim that they should provide security. While the court was not going into the merits of whether Dana’s claims were defamatory, he found there was a public value in litigating in a civil context claims involving sexual abuse allegations where proof beyond a reasonable doubt had not been established in a criminal trial.

He found Dana had established a reasonable defence to defamation and there had been no delay by her in issuing her security for costs application. The court was undecided as to the impecuniosity of Ms Stein and Ms Gorrell. However, they had identified special circumstances which justify a refusal to grant such security.

The failure of Ms Gorrell to make a complaint (to the police) before 2011 can be understood in the context of comments made, in another case, by an expert on the social history of child welfare, he said.

The court exercised its discretion in finding the plaintiffs’ disputed impecuniosity was not a reason for granting Dana’s application.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Email Updates

Receive our lunchtime briefing straight to your inbox

More in this Section

In the shadow of gunmen: Unsolved shootings in Cork

Treasure trove of artifacts found under Cork street

Respiratory drug may be withdrawn

DNA database links 530 crimes to suspects


Breaking Stories

Poet John Montague dies aged 87

Seanad may have problem in temporary move to National Museum

Gardaí warn public about phone scam asking for immediate payment of Revenue bill

Beggar back on his feet after job offer from stranger

Lifestyle

Pantomime review: Cinderella, Cork Opera House

Fair City: Behind the scenes at Carrigstown

Big read: Home to the world’s greatest restaurant

Ask Audrey has been sorting out Cork people for years

More From The Irish Examiner