Friday 28 July 2017

Judge to decide next week on O'Brien's bid to injunct RTÉ

Businessman Denis O’Brien: seeking injunction
Businessman Denis O’Brien: seeking injunction

Tim Healy

A Judge will give his decision next week on a High Court injunction application, brought by businessman Denis O'Brien to stop an RTÉ broadcast which he says will breach his privacy rights.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy said he would give his judgment more likely at the end rather than the beginning of next week.

He heard submissions from lawyers for Mr O'Brien, Irish Bank Resolution Corporation and RTÉ over three days as to whether RTÉ should be stopped from broadcasting a report about what Mr O'Brien says are his private and confidential affairs with IBRC.

He says such a broadcast would breach his constitutional and European convention right to privacy.

IBRC, which has a separate but related application before the court, supported his case.

RTÉ opposed it on grounds including the right to freedom of expression and public interest.

It also argued the courts should be slow to interfere with legitimate journalistic judgment. It said Mr O'Brien's suggestion the report could have been run without naming him would result in a boring and sterile story.

Mr O'Brien's side argued the court should grant the injunction, pending full hearing of all the issues, because damages would not be an adequate remedy should he win the main action.

Balance

The balance of convenience also favoured granting the injunction.

IBRC said RTÉ had put forward no public interest justification for breaching confidentiality or for breaching IBRC's right to claim legal privilege over certain matters related to this case.

Andrew Fitzpatrick BL, for IBRC, said RTÉ had admitted the real reason for this broadcast was it did not want the story to be boring.

There was no law which allowed breach of privacy on the basis that something might be boring, he said.

Earlier, in reply to submissions made on Thursday by RTÉ, Mr O'Brien's counsel Michael Cush said it was not for the broadcaster to decide the issue of confidentiality of information should be part of its editorial role.

That was a matter for the courts as they are there to protect people's rights, he said.

RTÉ argued the media must act as a watchdog on the rich and powerful, in accordance with freedom of expression rights under Article 10 of the European Convention, counsel said.

But not a single argument had been put forward to show that conferred a right to disclose confidential information.

It was also unfair for RTÉ to characterise as a threat Mr O'Brien's suggestion that he would have to review his arrangements with Irish banks if his private and confidential dealings with IBRC were disclosed, Mr Cush said.

Mr O'Brien had said "if the pretext" for RTÉ disclosing the information was that Mr O'Brien was dealing with an Irish bank, then he would have to carry out a review.

"'If' is the important word," Mr Cush said.

Irish Independent

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