Papers face €500,000 bill after trial collapse
TWO national newspapers could be hit with a €500,000 legal bill after they breached reporting rules which led to the collapse of a lengthy trial.
At Ennis Circuit Court yesterday, both the 'Irish Times' and 'Irish Examiner' were found to be in "technical contempt" by Judge Donagh McDonagh after they published reports -- including legal proceedings in the absence of the jury -- concerning a case against a former GP.
Both newspapers apologised to the court for Thursday's publications and Judge McDonagh accepted they had purged their contempt by the presence of senior editorial management in the court.
But both papers could still be forced to pick up hefty costs of the legal proceedings after their errors led to the collapse of the case against Paschal Carmody of Ballycuggeran, Killaloe, Co Clare, on the 17th day of the trial.
Mr Carmody had pleaded not guilty to nine charges of obtaining more than €16,000 by deception or under false pretences from the families of two terminally ill cancer patients under the pretence he could cure their cancer.
Both prosecution and defence lawyers informed the judge they would be seeking legal costs for the entire case from the two newspapers. A decision on costs will be made next month.
Regarding this week's contempt of court, Judge McDonagh said the Circuit Court must protect the integrity of its own process.
Judge McDonagh said the reports implied criticism of himself as well as the suggestion the jury might not have given full attention to the proceedings, which was an insult to them.
The comments were made in the absence of the jury and reported by a freelance reporter, Pat Flynn, who was filling in for a colleague.
It is against the law to publish legal proceedings in a trial when the jury are not present.
The judge noted the two newspapers had caused the trial to be aborted and questioned whether it was fair to ask the people of Ireland and Mr Carmody to bear the costs.
The issue was adjourned until May 12 and both newspapers have until May 9 to lodge written submissions with prosecution and defence barristers.
The judge added that he was transferring the case against Mr Carmody to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, but would not finalise the matter until next month.
With 17 days of evidence heard in a 22-day trial, legal experts last night estimated the overall bill could be in the region of €500,000.