Thursday 17 October 2019

COURT HEARD ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL ABUSE Father and sons fail in their defamation case

A FATHER and three sons failed in their defamation action brought against a fellow member of the Jehovah Witnesses when judgement was delivered at Kilkenny Circuit Court on Wednesday last.

William O'Connor, of Corcoran's Lane, Irishtown, New Ross, and sons, Michael, John and Gerard O'Connor, all of the same address, brought a defamation case against Adam Ballard, with an address of Clonmore, Clareen, Birr, Co. Offaly.

During the hearing at Wexford Circuit Civil Court, the O'Connors' Counsel, Susan Burke, said it was claimed that Adam Ballard spoke of them in a defamatory way, clearly portraying them as people to be held in contempt, who had committed the extremely serious offence of rape.

Ballard's words were extremely harmful and hurtful and totally without foundation, she said.

Ms Burke said that Mr. Ballard's ' calculated' words had exposed the O'Connor's to odium, ridicule and contempt.

She stated that during a meeting in New Ross Assembly Hall attended by William O'connor, Tony Walsh and Oliver Hegarty, both Elders in the New Ross Community, and Adam Ballard, it was alleged by Mr. Ballard that William O'Connor and his three sons, Michael, Gerry and John, repeatedly raped him during 1980.

'You came into a caravan in Navan and raped me at the Assembly. It happened again in McMurrough several times. You also used go down to the woods with four others, light a fire, dance around it with paint on your faces and rape me again.'

Adam Ballard, in his evidence, had told his Counsel Conor O'Doherty, that at the meeting he said John and Gerard O'Connor would not have been involved, except on the final occasion in Navan, but would have been present on other occasions when the abuse occurred.

Ms Burke argued that the particular allegation regarding things happening over a period of four years was not put to the plaintiffs, John and Gerard O'Connor, with Mr. O'Doherty claiming it was relevant in the issue of qualified privilege.

Ms Burke suggested that the plaintiffs made an absolute denial of any of the allegations made at the meeting.

Evidence in the action was given by Sergt. Brendan Kelly, William O'Connor, Michael, John and Gerard O'Connor, Tony Walsh and Oliver Hegarty, Elders in the Jehovah Witnesses community in New Ross, and the defendant Adam Ballard.

In her Reserved Judgement, Judge Alice Doyle said that the Elders had acted in a proper way.

Judge Doyle upheld the defence of qualified privilege and further held that the defence was not defeated.

The Judge therefore dismissed the O'Connors' claim is respect of both sets of proceedings. The Judge made no order as to costs.

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