NUJ welcomes dismissal of the Monica Leech defamation case
15 June 2017
The National Union of Journalists has welcomed the determination of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that the Supreme Court’s €1.25m award in the Monica Leech defamation case was disproportionate and that it breached the Independent News and Media’s freedom of expression.
The case concerned the action taken by communications consultant Monica Leech over story about a burglary at her home almost 12 years ago.
Séamus Dooley, NUJ acting general secretary, described the determination as “a landmark judgement for Irish journalism”. He said:
“The NUJ has long been concerned at the risk posed to media organisations by the current defamation regime. The ECHR emphasised the need for ‘a detailed and specific direction’ to juries and this is consistent with the long held belief of the NUJ. We support the principle of juries in defamation cases but it has long been clear that juries need direction when deciding on the scale of damages.
“The ruling is extremely significant because of the emphasis placed on the importance attached to the concept of freedom of speech and the need for an appropriate level of damages. The award against the Evening Herald was a striking example of a situation which has long been a concern to editors, journalists and publishers.
“This judgement should discourage rich and power people who currently seek to silence the media to think twice before going down the lucrative libel route. In any campaign for libel reform there must also be an emphasis on use of the office of the Press Council of Ireland and the Press Ombudsman as an alternative to legal action. Newspaper owners and shareholders should lead by example in this regard.”