Friday, May 12, 2023

High Court reporters

A decision on who will pay the costs of the hearing of a discovery application in the High Court defamation case by former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams against the BBC is to be left over until the full trial of the action.

On Friday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan reserved costs pending determination of the full action in which Mr Adams claims the BBC falsely alleged he had sanctioned the killing of former Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson, who worked for decades as a spy for the British.

The action is over a 2016 BBC Spotlight programme in which the allegation was made, and in an article posted on the BBC webpage.

The BBC denies defamation. It claims the programme and publication were put out in good faith and during the course of discussion on a subject of public and vital interest. They constituted responsible journalism which was the result of careful investigation, the broadcaster claims.

In July 2020, following a hearing on preliminary issues, Mr Justice Meenan directed the BBC to make discovery of the various categories of documents Mr Adams claimed he needed for his case.

A separate application by Mr Adams, seeking an order that the BBC provide further and better particulars of all material facts in support of the allegations, was refused by the judge. The BBC said these matters would be dealt with as part of the evidence in the case.

On Friday, in a ruling in relation to the costs of those preliminary applications, Mr Justice Meenan said that, having regard to general principles, the appropriate order in relation to costs of the discovery application was to reserve them to the trial.

In relation to costs in the application for further particulars, he ruled the BBC was entitled to those costs but put a stay on them pending the trial.

The judge also refused an application by the BBC for 20 weeks to allow it to provide an affidavit in relation to the discovery order.

He said given that his decision that discovery should be made was nearly three years ago, he would have thought some work would have been done on this by now.

“There is no earthly reason why the process of discovery should not have started back in 2020”, he said.

The further 20 weeks sought was unreasonable, but he was prepared to give 10 weeks for the affidavit to be sworn.

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