Barry Watters V Independent Star Limited Trading As Irish Daily Star On Sunday [2010] IECC 1

Independent Star Ltd, publishers of the Star On Sunday newspaper which was found to have defamed convicted child porn user Barry Watters, has been fined €40,000 for contempt of court.

In November 2010 the Circuit Court ruled that Mr Watters, who is serving a sentence for possessing child pornography after pleading guilty still retains a “residual reputation” that deserves protection from defamation. The newspaper had published an article about Mr Watters’ alleged “relationship” with Larry Murphy under the headline “Larry’s Secret Shower Buddy”. Larry Murphy was recently released after serving a sentence for the abduction, rape and attempted murder of a woman in 2000. The article also made reference to the “seedy” and “weird” relationship between the two men.

In the first ruling of it’s kind under the Defamation Act 2009, the court ordered the newspaper to publish a correction of its defamatory statements and prohibited it from publishing any further defamatory material about Mr Watters. During an adjournment of the case to facilitate the parties reaching an agreement, the newspaper published a second article alongside a photograph of Mr Watters containing the statement “We may have to apologise to this revolting pervert but will we mean it? Hell no.”.

The court accepted an apology by the newspaper and directed that they publish a correction of the defamatory statements in respect of the original article, the subject of the defamation action. The newspaper was also directed to publish a fair summary of the judgment in respect to the defamation. That summary of the judgment was to have equal half-page prominence as given to the initial defamatory article. The newspaper was also fined €40,000 to be paid within one month, for contempt of court in relation to the second article.