'The objective here is to try to kill the proceedings' - Family members suing Dana unable to proceed with action if €425,000 security approved
Published 12/10/2016 | 17:24
A sister and niece of former Presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallan will be unable to proceed with defamation actions against her if the court requires them to provide security for her legal costs, the High Court has been told.
If the court grants Dana orders requiring Susan Stein and Susan Gorrell provide the €425,000 security sought by Dana, their cases will be at an end, their counsel Jim O'Callaghan SC said: “The objective here is to try to kill the proceedings.”
Counsel said security for costs should be refused on grounds including Dana has no strong defence to defamation, the cases are in the public interest and his clients had put "after the event" insurance cover in place which would meet Dana's costs and expenditure, estimated by the plaintiffs at €165,000.
In their civil actions for which trial dates have yet to be fixed, Ms Stein and her daughter Ms Gorrell, both living in Iowa, US, allege Dana defamed them in a TV3 interview broadcast on October 14, 2011, during the presidential campaign.
Both women claim Dana made statements which, they claim, meant they maliciously made up claims Ms Gorrell was sexually abused between 1971-81 by her uncle, John Brown, a brother of Dana. They claim the allegations of abuse are true.
The court has heard Mr Brown, of Bracknell, Berkshire, England, was cleared in 2014 of all charges of indecent assault brought against him arising from a complaint made to the UK police in 2011 by Ms Gorrell.
Mr Justice Rober Eager heard further argments on Wednesday on Dana's application for security for costs.
Mr O'Callaghan said the gravity of the defamation was over a reference by Dana to “vile and malicious liars”. His clients contended she was referring to them.
The core issue in this “vile” case was whether or not the "awful" allegation Ms Gorrell was sexually abused by John Brown was correct or not and that would have to be decided by a jury in the full action, he said.
In deciding whether to grant security for costs, the court should take into account his clients also sued TV3 over the broadcast and that case had settled on terms including an apology, he said.
The court has heard Dana denies defamation on grounds including she did not name the plaintiffs and what she said in the interview did not mean what the plaintiffs allege.
Her counsel, Oisin Quinn, said those pleas, along with other pleas of truth, justification and honest opinion in relation to parts of the claim amount to a bona fide defence.
It was hard to see how the public interest was served by these cases when Dana was no longer running for public office, counsel said.
Dana's brother John was also not a party to these cases, he was tried and acquitted of all charges and was entitled to the presumption of innocence, he added.
Dana believes an insurance policy obtained by the plaintiffs is part of an attempt to defeat her security for costs application and will not lead to her recovering all her costs should they lose, counsel said
She also pleads the sexual abuse claims against her brother John first surfaced in 2005 during a US court dispute involving members of her family over copyright of her records and ownership of a music company, Heartbeat Records.
In a series of affidavits, Dana disputed the plaintiffs’ claims to be of limited means while they rejected her claims concerning the extent of their assets, including in relation to Heartbeat Records. Mr Quinn said there was prima facie evidence Heartbeat Records was “a substantial business making substantial revenues”.
The hearing continues.