Monday 19 February 2018

'Sunday World' to pay €225,000 over lorry driver article

Stephen Kelly sued Sunday Newspapers for damages. Photo: Collins Courts
Stephen Kelly sued Sunday Newspapers for damages. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A lorry driver has been awarded €225,000 by a High Court jury which found his reputation had been damaged by a 'Sunday World' article concerning a fatal road collision.

The jury found Stephen Kelly (36), of The Rower, Co Kilkenny, was defamed by the article published in July 2009.

It carried comments by Liam Norris, the father of Graham Norris (26), who died on October 12, 2005, when his car crashed into an articulated lorry being driven by Mr Kelly at Ashtown Cross, Co Waterford.

The lorry was making a difficult turn, during darkness, into a narrow road leading to a wood where Mr Kelly was picking up timber. Mr Kelly had claimed his lights were working when he got into his vehicle that day and that while side reflective markings were dirty, they were visible.

Sunday Newspapers, publisher of the 'Sunday World', denied defamation and said the words in the article were true. The paper disputed his claims and gardaí gave evidence certain lights were not working and the reflective markings were filthy dirty.

Mr Kelly had been acquitted in 2007 in Waterford Circuit Court of dangerous driving causing death, but convicted of failing to have a road worthiness certificate for his vehicle and of not having a proper under running bar on the truck to prevent cars going underneath it.

Mr Kelly claimed the newspaper article, which included comments from Liam Norris about him (Kelly) having shown no sympathy over Graham's death, meant he had misled the jury in the criminal trial and meant he was a callous person.

The jury decided the article meant Mr Kelly was a callous person, indifferent to the loss of the Norris family. It also decided the article meant Mr Kelly deliberately misled the Circuit Court jury in Waterford.

It found the paper had not proved he was a callous person and indifferent and had not proved he misled the Waterford jury.

It found his reputation had been damaged and also said the words in it were not fair comment on a matter of public interest. It assessed damages at €225,000.

Eoin McCullough SC, for Sunday Newspapers, asked for a stay on the award and on costs while his side considered an appeal. Declan Doyle SC, for Mr Kelly, said such a stay should be on condition of a payout of part of the award having regard to the findings of fact by the jury on complex issues.

Irish Independent

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