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X-Factor judge Louis Walsh wants access to Sun documents on false assault accusation


Louis Walsh is the one judge confirmed to return to X Factor.

Louis Walsh is the one judge confirmed to return to X Factor.

Louis Walsh is the one judge confirmed to return to X Factor.

X-FACTOR judge Louis Walsh is seeking access to documents which will allegedly show the Sun newspaper offered to pay a man if he agreed to make what turned out to be a false sexual assault accusation against the entertainment manager, the High Court heard today.

The documents, it is also claimed, will show the Sun paid €700 to Leonard Watters (24) and promised to make more payments to him before a journalist accompanied him to a garda station where he made his false complaint against Mr Walsh, senior counsel Jim O'Callaghan, for Mr Walsh, told the court.

"The Sun directed the operation to take out Louis Walsh as a public person", Mr O'Callaghan said.

Last January, Mr Watters, from Navan in Co Meath, was sentenced to six months imprisonment after pleading guilty to making two false reports to gardaí that Mr Walsh sexually assaulted him in a toilet in Dublin's Krystle nightclub on April 9 last year.

Mr Walsh is suing Newsgroup Newspapers, publishers of the Sun, for defamation over an article it published on June 23 last.

It accepts the accusation was false but denies defamation and says it acted fairly and reasonably in relation to the publication.

Mr Walsh is seeking damages including aggravated and/or exemplary damages in which it is alleged that on June 15, 2011, Mr Watters met with Sun journalist Joanne McElgunn in the Newbridge Hotel, Navan.

During the course of a dinner she offered to pay him a sum of money if he agreed to make a complaint to the gardai about "about being assaulted" in the toilet, Mr Walsh says in his statement of claim for his pending libel action.

That same day, Ms McElgunn allegedly travelled to Pearse Street Garda Station in Dublin so that the complaint could be made, it is claimed.

Five days later, it is alleged, Mr Watters met up again with Ms McElgunn and he was "encouraged and enticed by her, on behalf of the defendant, to repeat the false statements to her" for publication in the Sun.

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Mr Walsh claims he is aware Ms McElgunn, on behalf of the paper, paid him €700 and promised further payments after the story was printed.

On a subsequent unknown date, Ms McElgunn booked him into a hotel in Dublin in order to secure further false statements about Mr Walsh and to ensure he did not take his false story to rival publications, he claims.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill reserved judgment on an application by Mr Walsh's lawyers for discovery (disclosure) of documents in the possession of the Sun, including but not limited to those held by Ms McElgunn in relation to the false allegations.

The documents include anything suggesting payments or offers of payments made to Mr Watters, the booking of a hotel room, expenses claimed by Ms McElgunn between June 15 and December 15, 2011, and cash withdrawals from her bank account of more than €200 between those dates.

In submissions on the discovery application yesterday, Mr O'Callaghan said the deputy editor of the Irish Sun, Paul Clarkson, had sworn an affidavit last Friday in which he (Clarkson) said the discovery order being sought by Mr Walsh would jeopardise the important function of protecting journalistic sources and confidential information.

Mr Clarkson pointed out Mr Watters was not named in their original story and also said the documents in question may tend to identify other people in relation to other articles.

Mr O'Callaghan argued there could be no question in this case of protecting a source because Mr Watters had been already been publicly named.

In the lead up to the publication of the story, Mr Walsh's personal representative was told by Sun journalists that the information they had in relation to the false accusation had come from the gardai. If that was true, it would have meant the gardai were committing a criminal offence and if not, it was a serious matter for a newspaper, counsel said.

Gary Compton BL, for the newspaper, said it it was essential for press freedom that people can come forward to journalists with information which they know will be treated in confidence. The test to be applied was under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights which was not primarily about the protection of sources or journalists but about the protection of the system, counsel said.

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