Sunday 20 January 2019

Defamation case jury set to consider its verdict on pilots' email

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tim Healy

Speeches in the Ryanair defamation action against three pilots have finished and the jury may begin considering its verdict after the judge's charge today.

The airline is suing three members of the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG) - Evert Van Zwol, John Goss and Ted Murphy. It claims it was defamed by a September 12, 2013, email from the RPG, headed: "Pilot update, what the markets are saying about Ryanair."

The company says it falsely implied that Ryanair management had misled the market and facilitated insider dealing. The defendants deny the claims.

In his address on behalf of the defendants, Paul O'Higgins SC said Ryanair's reputation had not been damaged by the update and that the "real reason" it took the case was to "shut the beaks of anyone who might open them".

It was normal in defamation cases for a plaintiff to put forward a witness to say they had read the material and they were pretty shocked at what they had read, he said. But in this case, there had been no such witness from thousands of Ryanair pilots.

The case was meant to act as a "severe warning" to anyone who might step into the shoes of the defendants.

John Goss, the only one of the defendants who was a Ryanair pilot, until he was dismissed after 30 years, had gone "through a life of persecution by Ryanair", counsel said. In relation to his sacking, shortly after he had given an interview to Channel 4, counsel said his client was not prepared to be dishonest.

Thomas Hogan SC, for Ryanair, said this case was not about how the airline treats its pilots, nor about its negotiating procedures or about safety, but about a single publication.

The defendants, he told the jury, had sought to put Ryanair on trial - but it was the defendants' actions that the jury had to consider, not Ryanair's.

Irish Independent

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