Tribune lookalike 'a careful plan to deceive readers'
THE decision by the 'Irish Mail on Sunday' to print 26,000 'Sunday Tribune' lookalike editions was a "carefully executed plan" to deceive consumers, a judge was told yesterday.
Associated Newspapers Ireland, owners of the 'Irish Mail on Sunday', is being prosecuted at Dublin District Court for breaching consumer protection laws.
The newspaper group has pleaded not guilty to six charges facing it.
Judge Conal Gibbons yesterday heard submissions from lawyers for the National Consumer Agency (NCA) and Associated Newspapers Ireland.
The consumer agency brought the case after complaints by readers who bought the "special edition" on February 6 last thinking they had purchased the 'Sunday Tribune', days after it went into receivership.
The 'Irish Mail on Sunday' then distributed 26,000 "special editions" to shops on the east coast.
They featured a "wraparound" cover with a heading saying "a special edition designed for readers of the 'Sunday Tribune'".
Defence counsel Neil Steen submitted yesterday that the case was brought against his client following "a media fire-storm".
Five people had given evidence saying they had been deceived by buying the edition.
However, Mr Steen argued that this did not mean the average consumer had been misled and that the witnesses were "an unrepresentative sample".
Mr Steen also said that some 9,000 copies were sold and the consumers who gave evidence represented 0.01pc of those who bought the special edition.
Jonathan Kilfeather, for the NCA, submitted that the evidence of the paper's editor Sebastian Hamilton and Paul Henderson, managing director of Associated Newspapers Ireland, was evasive. It had to be dragged out of them that the so-called special edition "looked a lot like the 'Sunday Tribune'".
Judge Gibbons adjourned the case until December 16 when he is to give his verdict.
Associated Newspapers Ireland faces six charges and could be fined up €18,000 and have to pay the NCA's legal costs if found guilty.