Friday 21 October 2016

Former Premiership footballer awarded €85k after being defamed by 'Sunday World'

Tim Healy

Published 29/06/2015 | 16:27

David Speedie pictured leaving the Four Courts Photo: Courts Collins
David Speedie pictured leaving the Four Courts Photo: Courts Collins

A HIGH Court jury has awarded €85,000 in damages to former Premiership footballer David Speedie over a newspaper article which they found defamed him by saying gardai had reason to suspect him of being involved in criminal activity.

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After two days of deliberation, the jury found an article published in the Sunday World in April 2011 had defamed him.

It awarded him €85,000 and recommended a "sincere apology" to him be printed in the paper.

Mr Speedie, who played for Liverpool and Chelsea among other clubs, claimed Sunday Newspapers Ltd, publishers of the paper, defamed him by linking him to criminal figures in two separate articles.

The paper, its editor and the reporter, denied the claim and said the words in the stories were true.

The first article was on April 10, 2011 headlined "Kops and Robbers" while the second was published two weeks later in response to a letter from Mr Speedie's solicitor.  The second was headlined "Speedy the Snake" with a photograph of Mr Speedie handling a large snake.

Mr Speedie claimed the stories falsely meant he was engaged in criminal activity, was involved in smuggling or transportation of drugs and had links to gangland crime.

The jury was asked eight questions.

In reply to whether the first article meant Mr Speedie engaged in criminal activity, it said "no".

It replied "yes" to whether the first article meant gardai had reason to suspect he was involved in criminal activity.

On the basis of this yes answer, the jury awarded €85,000 and recommended an apology be printed.

The jury also found the first article meant he associated with known criminals and  the second article meant he was treacherous like a snake.

And the jury found that those meanings were true.

The second article did not mean he had links to the activities of the criminal Freddie Thompson, it also found.

Afterwards, Mr Speedie declined to comment.

Colm McGinty, editor of the Sunday World, and Mick McCaffrey, who wrote the stories, also declined to comment.

During the five-day trial, Mr Speedie told the court the articles damaged him in his role as a football pundit and led to him fearing for his life and those close to him. The court heard his fiancee is a sister of a woman married to Freddie Thompson's brother Ritchie Thompson.

He said he did not associate with criminals and drug dealers.   He also did not socialise with Ritchie Thompson.

He said that in the phone conversation with Mr McCaffrey, which led to the publication of the first article, he told Mr McCaffrey to "" and put the phone down as soon as he (McCaffrey) started talking about Freddie Thompson.

Mr McCaffrey stood by his reports and said they were faithful to the notes he had taken on the day of the phone interview.

Thanking the jury and discharging them, Mr Justice John Hedigan told them while they may recommend an apology be printed, they paper did not have to do that.

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