X Factor judge Louis Walsh said today he will “never get over” The Sun newspaper’s defamatory story that he sexually assaulted a man as he settled a lawsuit for £400,000.
The music promoter, who was falsely accused of groping a reveller in the toilet of a Dublin nightclub, said he would not wish what happened to him on his very worst enemy.
The out-of-court deal was reached after Walsh sued Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers over the June 23 2011 story with the headline “Louis Probed Over ’Sex Attack’ on Man in Loo”.
Walsh revealed he was gutted and traumatised that the allegation was published.
“I’ll never get over it,” he said. “Nothing can ever compensate me for the damage that was done to my reputation by The Sun and the trauma it caused to me, my family and close circle of friends.”
Unemployed dance teacher Leonard Watters was jailed for six months in July for wrongly accusing Walsh of groping him in a celebrity Dublin nightclub after a Westlife concert in April 2011.
Flanked by his legal team on the steps of the Four Courts in Dublin, Walsh continued: “This has had a terrible effect on me, guys, because it was all lies.
“I’m very satisfied with this total vindication for me, but I remain very angry at the treatment I received at the hands of The Sun. And the story did start with The Irish Sun.”
The €500,000 payout was agreed before the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, the day before Lord Justice Leveson’s report on media standards and ethics is published.
The settlement will also see The Sun pay Walsh’s legal fees, which are an estimated €175,000.
The paper previously accepted the accusation was false but initially denied defamation, saying that it had acted fairly as the story was based on police inquiries into the allegation.
Eoin McCullough, senior counsel for News Group Newspapers, read a statement to the court apologising to Walsh.
“The Sun fully accepts that the alleged assault did not occur in the first place and Louis Walsh is entirely innocent of any such assault,” said Mr McCullough.
“The Sun unreservedly apologises to Louis Walsh for any distress caused to him as a result of our article.”
Walsh, 60, who is appearing in his ninth series of the ITV talent show The X Factor, said he was totally bewildered as to who could have made up this type of story against him.
“Although the perpetrator has since been convicted as a result of concocting the allegations, this didn’t stop the story being spread all around the world as a result of The Sun’s headlines,” he continued.
“I’m nonetheless glad to have achieved this decisive and categoric outcome today.”
Watters, a 25-year-old father of two, alleged he had been sexually assaulted by Walsh in a toilet at Krystle nightclub.
He made his first complaint to police outside the club within hours of the false attack, but it was about two months before a formal statement was given to gardai.
Lawyers for Walsh claimed a crime writer with the Irish edition of The Sun, Joanne McElgunn, met Watters in a hotel on June 15, bought him dinner and offered him a sum of money on behalf of the newspaper if he agreed to make a complaint to police about being assaulted by Walsh.
It was also alleged that the journalist travelled with Watters to Pearse Street Garda station in Dublin so he could make the agreed complaint, and that Watters was paid €700 and promised further payments after the story was printed.
When the official complaint was made, The Sun and The Irish Sun printed the story before Walsh was questioned under caution.
Within days, investigators had shown Watters CCTV footage from the club that disputed his claims and he admitted he had made up the allegation.
Watters, from Navan in Co Meath, was arrested, charged and publicly apologised to Walsh for the unfounded claims. He was recently released from jail.
Michael McNiffe, the former Irish Sun editor, resigned last month.
Walsh said he could not have got through the case without his barrister Gavin Bonnar and solicitor Paul Tweed.
Mr Tweed said: “Although the person who fabricated the story has since been convicted in the criminal courts, this is a prime example of the serious damage that can be inflicted on an individual, whether they are well known or not, by the publication of totally unfounded allegations which, in the age of the internet, can circumnavigate the globe in a matter of seconds.
“The serious consequences of worldwide dissemination online of a defamatory story is a fundamental problem which Lord (Justice) Leveson’s report, to be published tomorrow in the UK, will hopefully address on the principle that prevention is always better than cure.”