Belfast Telegraph

Nuala O'Loan wins damages from DUP's Paul Givan over UTV interview

By Alan Erwin

Former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O'Loan is to receive substantial libel damages from the Demoratic Unionist Party chairman of the Stormont Justice Committee, it was announced today.

Paul Givan also issued an unreserved apology for comments he made in a live television interview which questioned her integrity and impartiality during her time in office.

The resolution was confirmed at the High Court in Belfast after a jury had been sworn in to hear the case.

Baroness O'Loan, who served as Northern Ireland's fist Police Ombudsman between 1999 and 2007, sued over a broadcast on UTV Live 18 months ago.

Although liability was accepted, a jury of four men and three women were due to decide the level of damages at a hearing set to last for up to three days.

However, following further negotiations, Mr Justice Gillen was told a settlement had been reached.

As part of the outcome an agreed statement was read out in court on behalf of Mr Givan and the second defendant, UTV Media Plc.

Nicholas Hanna QC, counsel for the DUP politician, said: "On September 5, 2011, Paul Givan MLA, Chair of the Assembly's Committee for Justice, participated in a live televised interview on UTV Live, during the course of which he made comments questioning the integrity and impartiality of Baroness Nuala O'Loan during her tenure as Police Ombudsman.

"Mr Givan unreservedly withdraws and apologises for any such defamatory imputations, which he fully accepts were totally without foundation."

"UTV unreservedly apologises for its failure to react adequately to the dissemination of the defamatory material."

The statement added: "Both defendants sincerely apologise to Baroness O'Loan fort any distress and embarrassment caused as a result of the offending broadcast.

"As a mark of their regret, the defendants have agreed to pay the plaintiff a substantial sum in damages and to pay her legal costs."

Outside the court former Police Ombudsman and her lawyer, Paul Tweed, expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

Baroness O'Loan said: "This was necessary to protect the integrity of the office.

"I'm just pleased it's been settled and the integrity of the work we conducted and my own integrity has been vindicated."

Mr Tweed, senior partner with Johnsons Solicitors, added: "My client has devoted many years of her life to public service and had at all times sought to discharge her responsibilities as Police Ombudsman with the utmost fairness and impartiality at all times, notwithstanding the many difficult challenges posed during her term in office.

"She therefore was left with no alternative but to take this legal action in order to vindicate her hard-earned reputation."

In a statement UTV Television's Managing Director Michael Wilson said: "We have apologised to Baroness Nuala O'Loan for our failure to react adequately to Paul Givan's defamatory comments live on our news during an interview in September 2011."

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