Ranger ordered to curtail libel claims
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
A FORMER member of the elite Irish Army Ranger wing who is suing the Sunday World for defamation of character has been told by the High Court he must curtail the scope of his claim for damages.Sunday Newspapers Ltd succeeded yesterday in a bid to force Seamus Griffin to whittle down his claim on the basis that certain imputations he ascribes to an article were not reasonably capable of bearing the defamatory meaning that he contends.
High Court President, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said the June 2010 article by the paper’s Investigations Editor, Nicola Tallant, had stated that a major military investigation was under way into allegations that elite rangers had taken leave of absence to give weapons training in the Seychelles to a squad of armed police nicknamed "The Assassins".
She had said the Army’s Special Investigation Branch was also probing allegations that one or more of a trio, including Griffin, had been involved in purchasing black market arms from South Africa for the Seychelles.
Stating that the "double-jobbing" scandal would be deeply embarrassing for the Army if any of the allegations were proven, she had added that the Army was being dragged into "…financial wranglings with the allegations that serving rangers worked on contracts which involved weapons training for an elite police squad".
Griffin claimed the article meant he had been involved in the illegal purchase of black market arms; improperly took leave of absence to give weapons training to police in the Seychelles; was training members of an armed police squad to act as assassins; was working at a lucrative secondary job which conflicted with his employment; he was the subject of a major military investigation; was forced to retire from the Army and that there were substantial grounds for believing he had acted in the manner described in the article.
Judge Kearns said Oisin Quinn SC, counsel for the newspaper, had contended that the article had made clear at all times that there was a military investigation into allegations that rangers had taken leave of absence to give weapons training to police in the Seychelles.
Mr Quinn had submitted a statement that an inquiry was under way could not be equated by any fair-minded reader as meaning Mr Griffin was guilty of the sort of wrong-doings he had specifically pleaded were suggested in the Sunday World article.
Paul O’Higgins SC, counsel for Griffin, had said the overall layout and get-up of the article had gone much farther than to merely relate that an investigation was in progress.
Mr Justice Kearns said he was satisfied Mr Griffin’s case must be confined to the contention he was the subject of a major military investigation and that there were substantial grounds for believing he had acted in the manner described throughout his overall claim.
"In my view, he is not entitled to contend that the meanings contained in the imputations were that he was actually guilty of such behaviour," the President said.
He said the article contained many statements to the effect that "allegations" only had been raised.
Mr Griffin’s claim for damages will be heard at a later date in a full trial in the High Court.
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