Friday 23 March 2018

Dana loses bid to force sister and niece to put up security for legal costs in defamation case

Former presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon. Photo: Nick Edwards
Former presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon. Photo: Nick Edwards

Tim Healy

Dana Rosemary Scallon has lost a High Court application requiring her sister and niece to put up security for legal costs should they lose a defamation action they are taking against the singer and former presidential candidate.

The defamation action arises out of a 2011 TV interview, during the presidential election campaign, when Dana was asked about allegations of sexual abuse made against her brother, John Brown.

Susan Stein and her daughter Susan Gorrell, both living in Iowa in the US, have taken separate High Court actions alleging Dana defamed them during the interview broadcast on TV3 in October 2011.

Dana, they say, made statements which meant both women maliciously made up claims Ms Gorrell was sexually abused between 1971-81 by her uncle, John Brown, who lived in England. They claim the allegations of abuse are true.

Subsequently, Ms Gorrell made a complaint to English police. Mr Brown (62), of Bracknell, Berkshire, was cleared in July 2014 of charges of indecent assault of two girls aged under 13 and 16 in the 1970s and 1980s. Ms Stein and Ms Gorrell brought defamation proceedings against Dana, who denied their claims. Dana then sought a security of costs order in advance of the trial. She claimed legal costs would amount to some €450,000 while the other side estimated them at €189,000.

The plaintiffs opposed the application, saying it would end their case if they had to put up that sort of money. They also obtained an insurance policy in England under which they were indemnified for legal costs, if their case was not successful, up to a limit of €150,000 each. Dana's lawyers argued the policy was so conditional it could not provide sufficient security for costs.

Mr Justice Robert Eagar rejected Dana's claim they should provide security. While the court was not going into the merits of whether Dana's claims were defamatory, he found there was a public value in litigating in a civil context claims involving sexual abuse allegations where proof beyond a reasonable doubt had not been established in a criminal trial. He found Dana had established a reasonable defence to defamation and there had been no delay by her in issuing her security for costs application.

The failure of Ms Gorrell to make an official complaint before 2011 can be understood in the context of comments made, in another case, by an expert on the social history of child welfare, he said.

Earlier, the judge said he did not accept the insurance policy provided any security for the defendant as the policy was designed for the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

However, the court was exercising its discretion in finding the plaintiffs' disputed impecuniosity was not a reason for granting Dana's application.

Irish Independent

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