Louis Walsh has been awarded 500,000 euros in damages from News International’s News Group Newspapers in relation to that report in The Sun last year which accused the ‘X-Factor’ judge of groping a man in a Dublin club. The News Corp-owned company will also pay Walsh’s legal costs of 180,000 euros, in a ruling made at the Irish High Court yesterday.
As previously reported, in June last year Leonard Watters told Irish police he was groped by Walsh in the toilets at a Dublin nightclub. The Sun reported the story, but less than a week later Watters admitted he had lied about the incident, and was himself promptly arrested and jailed for wasting police time.
Reading a statement from the company to the Dublin court, the Guardian reports, NGN’s legal rep Eoin McCullough said: “The Sun published an article in its editions of 23 Jun 2011, in which we reported that Louis Walsh was being investigated in relation to a sexual assault on Leonard Watters. In fact, it transpired that Leonard Watters had made a false statement to [Irish police force] An Garda Siochána, and he has since been convicted in relation to this matter. The Sun fully accepts that the alleged assault did not occur in the first place and Louis Walsh is entirely innocent of any such assault. The Sun unreservedly apologises to Louis Walsh for any distress caused to him as a result of our article”.
Walsh’s lawyer Paul Tweed, said: “This is a prime example of what we would look to see come out of [the] Leveson [report, due to be published today]. We are not trying to gag the press or stop investigations, but if there was a strong body that we could have rung before to get them to stop the story for 24 hours, we could have provided proof that Louis wasn’t even in the place at the time and all this would have been avoided. They gave us just a few hours [notice about the story], they were determined to run it”.
Meanwhile, speaking outside the court, Walsh himself said that he was “relieved” the litigation was over, adding that he had informed the writer of the story, The Sun’s celebs man Gordon Smart, that the allegations were false prior to publication but “no amount of pleading could stop them [from publishing the story]“.
He said: “Gordon Smart called me and said ‘you could be nicked for this’. I told him it was not true; it was totally totally not true, but they still ran the story. It has been a very traumatic experience for me. I will never get over it. I am very satisfied with this total vindication for me, but I remain very angry at the treatment at the hands of The Sun. I was absolutely gutted and traumatised that these allegations against me should have been published, particularly as I had made it clear at the time there was not one iota of truth in them, and was totally bewildered who would have made up this type of story”.