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Paper loses court battle over Katy phone records

A NEWSPAPER has failed in a High Court bid to get material which it claims model Andrea Roche may have relating to her contact with tragic Katy French shortly before her death.

Ms Roche is suing the Sunday World for libel over a December 9, 2007 article in which she says she was defamed when the paper wrongly claimed she was to be interviewed by gardai over Ms French's death.

Ms French died in hospital on December 6, 2007, days after collapsing in a friend's home in County Meath.

The Sunday World asked the Master of the High Court, who deals with cases on their way to trial, to order Ms Roche to make discovery -- legal disclosure -- of any documents, including phone records, of any contact between her and Ms French 48 hours before her death.

The Master refused to do so and yesterday the paper appealed that decision which High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns upheld.

The judge refused to give the paper an order requiring discovery of all notes, statements and/or memos concerning what it claimed was Ms Roche's questioning of her by gardai in relation to the circumstances surrounding the collapse/death of Ms French. Such material, the paper said, would include any statements made or correspondence provided by Ms Roche to gardai in the course of their investigation.

The paper had also sought documents detailing the social relationship between Ms Roche and Kieron Ducie, in whose home Ms French collapsed.


It also sought any material detailing the social relationship between Ms Roche and car dealer Lee Cullen who was also named in the article.

Dismissing the application, Mr Justice Kearns said the paper had met the threshold for discovery in relation to its claim that the article was in the public interest. But it had not done so in relation to its second claim that it had acted responsibly and published the article within the requirements of good journalistic practice, the judge said.

While there may have been contact between the individuals named in the article, and the judge was not saying there was, the discovery application might be seen as an "ad hoc justification of certain matters".

As had been argued before the court, where justification for publication is relied on, a defendant was not entitled to "go fishing" for other matters through discovery, the judge said.

It seemed the essence of what was being sought was information which might affect the evidence (in the libel case) and provide some sort of justification for the manner in which the article was researched, the judge said.