Johnsons Solicitors seals settlement in X Factor judge’s libel action

Irish firm Johnsons Solicitors has steered a settlement for X Factor judge Louis Walsh, who has accepted €500,000 (£404,000) in libel damages from Matheson client The Sun over false sex assault allegations published last year.

The talent show judge and music manager sued the tabloid’s publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN) in Ireland after The Sun published a false story claiming he had groped a man in a Dublin nightclub in 2011.

The senior counsel for NGN, Eoin McCullough, read a statement to the High Court in Dublin this morning apologising to Walsh for the article, which reported that the Westlife manager was being investigated in relation to a sexual assault on unemployed dance teacher Leonard Watters in June last year. Watters was jailed for six months in July last year following the false allegation.

Walsh turned to long-standing legal adviser Paul Tweed of Johnsons Solicitors and barrister Gavin Bonnar for the case, with Hugh Hannigan of Irish firm Matheson (formerly Matheson Ormsby Prentice) advising NGN.

In a statement sent to The Lawyer Tweed said: “This is a prime example of the serious damage that can be inflicted on an individual, whether they are well known or not, by the publication of totally unfounded allegations, which in the age of the internet can circumnavigate the globe in a matter of seconds.

“The serious consequences of worldwide dissemination online of a defamatory story is a fundamental problem which Lord Leveson’s Report, to be published tomorrow in the UK, will hopefully address on the principle that preventionis always better than cure.”

Following the out-of-court deal Walsh said he was relieved it was all over before adding that he was traumatised the allegations were run “despite making it clear to the tabloid paper that there was not one iota of truth in them“.