Sunday 17 December 2017

Court dismisses Monica Leech libel case

Monica Leech Picture: Collins
Monica Leech Picture: Collins

Tim Healy

The Court of Appeal has ruled the "interests of justice" warranted the dismissal of libel proceedings by communications consultant Monica Leech, over an article in the 'Sunday Independent' 12 years ago.

The case related to a front-page article of January 30, 2005, concerning a burglary at Ms Leech's home. Ms Leech's proceedings were taken against Independent Newspapers Ltd. It denied libel, and its defence included pleading qualified privilege.

The case was initiated in April 2005, notices to proceed were served in 2008, then in 2014 Independent Newspapers applied to have the case dismissed and Ms Leech served a further notice of intention to proceed.

In November 2015, the High Court found inordinate and inexcusable delay by Ms Leech in advancing her action but also ruled the balance of justice favoured letting it proceed.

But in a unanimous judgment yesterday, the three-judge Court of Appeal granted the appeal by Independent Newspapers, represented by Cian Ferriter SC, against permitting the case to proceed.

Giving the appeal court's unanimous judgment, Ms Justice Mary Irvine held the High Court made legal errors in its assessment of where the balance of justice lay.

Ms Leech, the judge said, made a tactical decision to "park" this libel case, initiated in April 2005, while she pursued two other libel actions.

One of those cases, initiated in 2004 over articles in the 'Evening Herald', led to a €1.87m damages award in 2009, which was later reduced to €1.25m by the Supreme Court in 2014 on appeal. The second case, over a 2004 article in the Irish Independent, is subject to a retrial.

Irish Independent

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