To make false allegations to the Gardai or anybody else against Louis Walsh
Louis Walsh is seeking access to documents that will allegedly show British newspaper The Sun offered to pay a man if he agreed to make what turned out to be a false sexual assault accusation against the X Factor judge.
Senior counsel Jim O’Callaghan, for Mr Walsh, yesterday told the High Court: “The Sun directed the operation to take out Louis Walsh as a public person.”
Last January, Leonard Watters (24), from Navan in Co Meath, was sentenced to six months in prison.
He had admitted making two false reports to gardai that Mr Walsh sexually assaulted him in Dublin’s Krystle nightclub on April 9 last year. Mr Walsh is suing Newsgroup Newspapers, publishers of downmarket British paper The Sun, for defamation over an article it published on June 23 last.
Newsgroup Newspapers accepts the accusation was false but denies defamation and says it acted fairly and reasonably in relation to the publication. It is alleged that on June 15, 2011, Mr Watters met with Sun journalist Joanne McElgunn at the Newbridge Hotel in Navan.
During the course of a dinner she offered to pay him a sum of money if he agreed to make a complaint to the Gardai “about being assaulted” in the toilet, Mr Walsh says in his statement of claim for his pending libel action. That same day, Ms McElgunn travelled to Pearse Street Garda Station in Dublin so the complaint could be made, it is alleged.
It is alleged that five days later Mr Watters met up again with Ms McElgunn and was “encouraged and enticed by her, on behalf of the defendant, to repeat the false statements to her” for publication in The Sun. Mr Walsh claims he is aware Ms McElgunn, on behalf of the paper, paid him €700 and promised further payments after the story was printed.
On a subsequent unknown date, Ms McElgunn booked Mr Watters into a hotel in Dublin in order to secure further false statements about Mr Walsh and to ensure Mr Watters did not take his false story to rival publications, it is alleged. Yesterday, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill reserved judgment on an application by Mr Walsh’s lawyers for discovery (disclosure) of documents in the possession of The Sun.
Gary Compton, a lawyer for the newspaper, said it was essential for press freedom that people can come forward to journalists with information which they know will be treated in confidence. The test to be applied was under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which was not primarily about the protection of sources or journalists but about the protection of the system, counsel said.
And last night the Brit paper said in a statement that they “entirely deny and refute the allegation that its reporter Joanne McElgunn or any member of its staff encouraged or enticed any person to make false allegations to the Gardai or anybody else against Louis Walsh”.