Thursday 22 February 2018

Dad in birth libel case has sued five women, court told

'Sunday Times' reporter Brenda Powe
'Sunday Times' reporter Brenda Powe

Tim Healy

JOURNALIST Brenda Power stands by a newspaper column in which she criticised what she insists was the "appalling" behaviour of a father in suing a midwife over the interruption of his filming at the birth of his first baby, she has told the High Court.

Ms Power said when midwife Iris Halbach asked John McCauley to put down his camera and stop filming after his daughter Simone was born by C-section in Mount Carmel Hospital, Dublin, in September 2006, that should have been the end of the matter.

The midwife had asked him to do so because she had only minutes to carry out a procedure whereby she had to clear the baby girl's lungs of mucus and get her breathing, she said.

"Most people would have done what they were asked," she said. "Had she (midwife) not done so, he might have had real reason to sue the hospital."

Ms Power also said Mr McCauley appeared to have a lawyer "on speed-dial" because he had sued five women.

She was being cross-examined on the third day of Mr McCauley's defamation action against the journalist and 'The Sunday Times' over the column published in the paper in March 2009.


It followed publicity about the dismissal of a Circuit Court action in 2009 brought by Mr McCauley against Ms Halbach and the hospital over what he (Mr McCauley) claimed was the midwife's unreasonable behaviour in insisting he stop filming just after the birth of his first child to his partner, Lithuanian teacher Jurgita Jachimaviciute.

Ms Power wrote on the matter in her weekly column, which Mr McCauley says was defamatory. The defendants deny the claims.

The case will resume on Tuesday, when the jury of eight women and four men is expected to go out to consider a verdict.

Ms Power, under cross-examination yesterday by Colm Smyth, for Mr McCauley, said he (Mr McCauley) should have listened to what the midwife said "and gone home and written her a letter of apology, not a solicitor's letter". "He sued her for having the cheek to tell him to stop," she added.

Ms Power did not speak to the midwife before she wrote the article but afterwards she and Ms Halbach exchanged emails in which Ms Halbach "agreed with everything I had said".

Put to her by Mr Smyth that while she was entitled to make comments, but not defame him, Ms Power, a qualified barrister, said she did not defame him and the person who damaged him the most was "Mr McCauley himself by bringing the action (against the midwife)".

She considered Mr McCauley's behaviour during an emergency situation where the baby's lungs had to be cleared to be irresponsible.

She was asked by Mr Smyth was she referring to Mr McCauley when she wrote in her article about "a small number of men" who "clearly can't accept the lowliness of their role" during the delivery of a baby and who "do their damnedest to project themselves centre stage".

She replied: "I think men in the delivery room have one function and that is to stay out of the way and to be a comfort to their partners." Anyone who has to be asked to put away a camera "had kind of missed the purpose of why he is there in the first place", she said.

Ms Power believed Mr McCauley, in bringing the case against the midwife, had wasted court time and put her through the trauma of an action where she was being sued for up to €38,000 and where she might have lost her job. Most right-thinking people would not have said to him, "you sued the midwife who saved your baby, fair play to you", she said.

She also said she had based what she wrote on the facts of the court case against the midwife, which he lost and did not appeal.

Asked earlier by her own counsel, Mark Harty, about a reference in her article about midwives working too hard in a task too important "to concern themselves with tiptoeing around the sensitivities of a father with a lawyer on speed dial", Ms Power said if Mr McCauley's action over the filming had succeeded, it would have meant the medical profession would first have to consult with the families of patients as to whether a situation was an emergency.

Mr McCauley did appear to have a lawyer on speed dial because he had sued the midwife, three female newspaper columnists as well as an air hostess who refused to serve him drink on a plane, she said.

Irish Independent

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