GAA player and dad awarded damages for defamation

A CIRCUIT Court judge has assessed damages of €25,000 each to a GAA player and his father for an internet post which accused the footballer of telling 'blatant lies' in court, resulting in a member of an opposing team being imprisoned for assault.

The plaintiffs in the case dealt with today (Tuesday) by Judge Francis Comerford at the Circuit Civil Court in Castlebar were Jonathan Clarke and James Clarke, Woodstock, Ballindine, Claremorris.

The Clarkes brought a defamation case against Andrew Malee, a member of Moy Davitts GAA Club, Foxford, as a result of a comment published by him on the website on October 17, 2015.

The offending post related to Jonathan Clarke, who had been the victim of an assault occasioned by a member of the Moy Davitts GAA team, a team mate and friend of Mr. Malee's.

Jonathan Clarke, then 23, lost an eye as a result of the assault in a club game in 2013.

Subsequently his attacker was sentenced to two years in prison for the assault with one year suspended.

The offending post was taken down by Mr. Malee within a day of being posted.

In court today, Andrew Malee apologised for his comments and admitted to having made the statements when he was ill-informed.

He said he did not know that the person he claimed had been wrongfully sent to jail had actually committed a serious criminal assault.

Judge Comerford said clear and substantial damage had been caused to the reputations of both plaintiffs.

Posting on the internet is more serious than someone talking in a pub, the judge noted.

He added: (There is) 'a lot of loose and stupid talk in is more serious to put something up in writing where up to tens of thousands of people can see it.'

Assessing damages at €25,000 to both plaintiffs, Judge Comerford noted that the defendant had made 'a somewhat ill-defined offer' to pay €15,000 compensation (in total) but the offer was wholly inadequate in terms of damages.