Tuesday 25 October 2016

Journalist Mick McCaffrey 'made absolutely nothing up' about former Premiership footballer David Speedie

Tim Healy

Published 25/06/2015 | 13:23

David Speedie pictured leaving the Four Courts yesterday after the opening day of a High Court action for damages. Photo: Courts Collins
David Speedie pictured leaving the Four Courts yesterday after the opening day of a High Court action for damages. Photo: Courts Collins

Crime journalist Mick McCaffrey told the High Court today he "made absolutely nothing up" in articles he wrote saying a former professional footballer was associated with gangland figures.

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Mr McCaffrey is on the second day of cross-examination in an action by David Speedie against the Sunday World over two articles in April 2011.

Mr Speedie, a former player with a  number of clubs including Liverpool and Chelsea, says the paper defamed him because the articles falsely meant he was engaged in criminal activity, was involved in smuggling or transportation of drugs and had links to gangland crime.

He is suing the paper's publishers, Sunday Newspapers Ltd, editor Colm McGinty and Mr McCaffrey who wrote the stories.

The defendants deny defamation and say the words in the articles were true.

Mr Speedie claims they caused him to lose work as a TV and radio football pundit, to be humiliated and depressed and fearful for his life because they associated him with mobster Freddy

Thompson who was involved in a feud which had claimed 16 lives.

Mr McCaffrey, under cross-examination by Mark Harty SC, for Mr Speedie, said as a crime journalist, and author of a number of books, including a bestseller on the Crumlin/Drimnagh gang feud, he has a lot of sources of stories including gardai, criminals and lawyers.

He again declined to say what was the source of some of the information he used for the Speedie story.

Asked whether he paid for stories he said: "Absolutely not, I can honestly say I never paid a garda for information".

Asked did he research the agendas and motives of people who come to him with information, he said as an experienced journalist, he would spot if someone was trying to smear someone else in giving information.

He said that arising out of a Commission of Investigation into the wrongful charging of a man, Dean Lyons, for a double murder in Grangegorman, Dublin, he had received a pre-publication copy of the report from a garda who was unhappy with the pace of the investigation.

He said the Evening Herald, which he was working for at the time, published his story about that report but it was only as it went to press it was realised it would be an offence to do so.   The garda concerned was later charged and convicted in relation to that, he said.

He disagreed with counsel what was written in his notes, compared to what appeared in the articles, was incorrect.  He accepted certain matters were not right but insisted "I made absolutely nothing up".

He said while this was his first time in court in relation to his journalism, he said papers regularly receive sollicitors letters threatening legal action.  He knew nothing about what happened in relation to two other cases in which he was a named defendant.

He agreed linking innocent people to gangland figures could have serious implications for their reputations.  However, he said, saying somebody was associated with somebody else "as far as I am concerned is a fact".

He said his story made it clear Mr Speedie had no involvement with the Crumlin/Drimnagh feud.

He disagreed the second article he wrote, which was a response to a letter from Mr Speedie's solicitor seeking a retraction for the first one, was "an attack piece" and the paper "going for the jugular" in an attempt to scare people off.

He said the reason the second article was written was because Mr Speedie's solicitor made no reference to the fact that the first article was based on an interview given to him by Mr Speedie.  

The fact that the second article was headlined "Speedie the Snake" appeared to be a pun on the fact that the story was accompanied by a picture of Mr Speedie holding a large snake. He did not write headlines.

The hearing continues before a judge and jury.

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