The Star Sunday newspaper deliberately repeated false and defamatory statements about a self-confessed and convicted child porn user, a judge said yesterday.
Judge Joseph Mathews said that after directing Star Sunday to publish a correction and apology to Barry Watters, the newspaper had committed contempt in the face of his judgment by republishing the libel complained of.
He said the newspaper, during an adjournment to facilitate the parties reaching agreement on the wording of a correction, had refused to accept the order and judgment of the Circuit Civil Court.
In an article alongside a photograph of Watters the newspaper had stated: “We may have to apologise to this revolting pervert… but will we mean it? Hell no.”
Judge Mathews initially found that Watters had, despite his conviction and imprisonment for using child porn, retained a residual character capable of being defamed and that he had been libelled by Star Sunday.
He said the newspaper stated: “Larry Murphy ‘the beast of Baltinglass’ has been rumoured to have become close to Watters ‘another twisted pervert’ in Dublin’s Arbour Hill Prison.”
Barrister Hugh Mohan, S.C., who appeared with James Mc Cullough for Watters, claimed the article implied Watters had been engaged in an illicit homosexual relationship with Murphy which he denied.
The court, under the new 2009 Defamation Act, had granted Watters (aged 34) of Hazelwood Avenue, Dundalk, Co Louth, a declaration that he had been defamed as well as an order for publication of a correction and a direction prohibiting the newspaper from repeating the libel. Star Sunday had described the new law as “bulls**t”.
Judge Mathews told barrister Eoin Mc Cullough, S.C., who appeared with Shane English, for the newspaper, that Star Sunday had elaborated on a story in its sister paper, the Irish Daily Star, refusing to accept the judgment and court orders.
He said the newspaper had committed a punishable contempt in the face of his judgment before the case had concluded and, in declaring it would not mean any apology, it had published matters directed at interfering with the due administration of justice.
Such a conclusion, he said, was not to unduly restrict the freedom of the Press to comment on a matter of public interest but, rather, to restrict the circumstances in which a libel might be republished and court orders brought to nought before the conclusion of a proceedings.
Judge Mathews directed that Star Sunday publish “a suitable summary” of his original judgment in favour of Mr Watters together with an apology.
He adjourned an application by Watters for the sequestration of Independent Star Ltd’s assets and consideration to commit and imprison for contempt of court Star Sunday editor Des Gibson and Daily Star editor Ger Colleran.
Judge Mathews said he would hear counsel on the appropriateness or otherwise of dealing with the matter by imposition of a fine.