19 Aug 2022

Engineer faces huge legal bill after failed defamation action against The Kilkenny People

Engineer faces huge legal bill after failed defamation action against The Kilkenny People

An engineer who lost his defamation High Court case against The Kilkenny People newspaper's owner, Iconic Newspapers has been ordered to pay the legal costs.

Michael Reilly, Ballycullen, Mullinahone, Co Tipperary had sued Iconic Newspapers over an article on the court page of the February 19, 2016, edition of the Kilkenny People.

The engineer claimed he was defamed by being called a criminal in the report of a District Court hearing about another Michael Reilly who got a suspended jail sentence, six year driving ban and a fine for uninsured driving. 

Last week, following a four-day hearing Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds withdrew a defamation action against the newspaper from a jury saying an article it published was fair and accurate and enjoyed absolute legal privilege.

At a costs hearing today Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds ruled that Mr Reilly should pay the full costs of the case.

Rossa Fanning SC for Iconic Newspapers told the hearing that costs follow the event, which means that the person who loses the case covers the costs.

“The facts of this case of course reveal that  the newspaper was published technically on Friday,  February 19 , we got the first solicitor's letter on Monday, February 22 and immediately the same day the editor wrote offering to publish a clarification in  ease of Mr. Reilly in the next edition.

“On the  Wednesday, on the 24th when that was rejected, the newspaper editor made a further offer, and he also reiterated that this was a fair and accurate report of  court proceedings and it was privileged,” he said.

Mr Fanning also pointed out that on the Friday of that week a solicitor’s letter was sent on behalf of the newspaper to Mr Reilly saying that this was privileged under the legislation. 

“So before the proceedings got out of the blocks, we very fairly put our position and we did offer a  clarification in ease of Mr. Reilly. So there was no justification at the outset for him commencing the proceedings. 

Frank Callanan, SC, for Mr Reilly argued that full costs should not be awarded to Iconic. He argued that ‘a significant plank of Mr. Reilly's case related to whether these were words that were spoken in court by the prosecuting sergeant or were taken from the court record’.

Mr Fanning said Iconic’s position was been that the article was privileged whether or not the address was read out in court. 

In her ruling Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds said there was ‘no basis upon which this court could deviate from the norm’ and that costs must follow the event.

She granted a request from Mr Callanan for a stay on her costs order in the event of an appeal but said that it would be limited to August 31.

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