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Friday 1 August 2014

Video: €500,000 no match for what I went through, says Walsh

Published 29/11/2012|05:00

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Louis Walsh outside the court with his barrister Gavin Bonner

HE has received a €500,000 defamation settlement, but vindicated Louis Walsh has insisted that the money was "no compensation" for what he has gone through over the past year.

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An out-of-court deal between the music mogul and News Group Newspapers in Ireland was reached yesterday.

A legal representative confirmed to the Irish Independent that Mr Walsh has "yet to decide" if he will spend the money or donate it to charity.

The 'X Factor' judge had sued the 'Sun' over a story last year based on a false allegation that he had sexually assaulted a man in a Dublin nightclub, Krystle.

Unemployed dance teacher Leonard Watters (24), from Navan in Co Meath, was jailed for six months in July for wrongly accusing Mr Walsh of groping him in the club's toilets following a Westlife concert in April 2011.

"It was the worst thing to happen to me in my life, it really could have ruined me. I thought I was finished. I had multiple panic attacks."

The 60-year-old, who has previously admitted that he considered ending his life when the false story was published, explained that he had completely avoided social settings in recent months out of fear.

"I didn't go anywhere, no nightclubs or to the pub, nothing. I avoided all gigs as well because paranoid of people coming up to me, getting pictures and then they thinking they can say anything about me," he said.

Speaking to Bryan Dobson on RTE's 'Six One News' bulletin, Mr Walsh launched an attack at the 'Sun'.

He said: "It's scary that somebody can do this. The 'Sun' have to apologise to me. I won, they lost. They were wrong."

He added: "They're horrible people in the 'Sun', don't ever trust them. People are scared. Don't be scared, guys. The truth has to come out."

Mr Walsh took legal action against the Murdoch group over the article, which was published on June 23, 2011 with the headline "Louis Probed Over 'Sex Attack' on Man in Loo."

The 'Sun' accepted that the accusation was false but initially denied defamation, saying it had acted fairly as the story was based on police inquiries in to the allegation.

"I'm all for freedom of press, but lies are lies," Mr Walsh said.

He insisted that he has the utmost respect and time for most journalists, with whom he enjoys a good relationship.

Apologising

Eoin McCullough, senior counsel for News Group Newspapers, read a statement to the High Court, apologising to Mr Walsh.

It said: "The 'Sun' published an article in its editions of 23 June, 2011, in which we reported that Louis Walsh was being investigated in relation to a sexual assault on Leonard Watters.

"The 'Sun' fully accepts that the alleged assault did not occur in the first place and Louis Walsh is entirely innocent of any such assault.

"The 'Sun' unreservedly apologises to Louis Walsh for any distress caused to him as a result of our article."

Mr Walsh celebrated over lunch yesterday with his lawyers, Gavin Bonnar, husband of musician Sharon Corr, and Paul Tweed, before returning to the UK to take his seat on the 'X Factor' judging panel.

Mr Tweed confirmed that his client would be paid damages of €500,000, along with his legal costs.

"The money Louis got obviously represented a big sorry from the 'Sun', but no amount of money will compensate him for all the stress he had to go through," explained Mr Tweed.

"This has been very traumatic for him. He implored the 'Sun' not to run it and they went ahead anyway."

The story, he said, was then spread all around the world.

"It took seven seconds to get from Dublin, to Sydney and LA," he said. "It went viral as a result and that's the difficulty with the internet – once it's out there, it's there for everyone to see. So it's about setting an example."

Mr Walsh's legal team stressed their hopes that the publication of the Leveson Report today in Britain would address "the principle that prevention is always better than cure".

"We're advocating a press council which can suspend a story, so it can be checked out properly and get the all-clear."

Mr Walsh was put in touch with Mr Bonnar and Mr Tweed through his close aides, music promoter Caroline Downey-Desmond and PR guru Joanne Byrne.

He said: "My friends got me through. Caroline and Joanne were there from the very beginning and were fantastic, so supportive."

Mr Walsh also received dozens of congratulatory phone calls from his celebrity friends, including Simon Cowell and Gary Barlow.

Irish Independent

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