Northern Ireland

Man gets 10m euro damages over sleepwalking naked libel

A businessman has been awarded 10m euro damages - the highest libel award in the history of the Irish state - after an incident in which he sleep-walked naked.

Donal Kinsella, 67, from Dunleer, County Louth, took the case against his former employer, Kenmare Resources.

The company published a press release insinuating he made inappropriate advances to a colleague in Africa.

Mr Kinsella had appeared naked at her bedroom door three times.

The incident happened at a meeting in Mozambique in 2007.

The court heard that he had been drinking, taking painkillers and had a habit of sleep-walking and not wearing pyjamas.

The company issued a press release in July 2007 which, the court agreed, defamed Mr Kinsella.

He sued the company and its chairman, Charles Carvill, who is based in Well Road, Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland,

The press release said he was being asked to resign from the company's audit committee and referred to an "incident".

An investigation by an independent solicitor on behalf of the company had found there was no conscious attempt on Mr Kinsella's part to enter the woman's room and no improper motive in opening her door.

Mr Kinsella was merely sleep-walking.

'Vindicated'

But lawyers for Mr Kinsella told the jury that the press release would mean to an ordinary person that "something juicy" was going on in the jungle and that Mr Kinsella had tried to "jump the company secretary".

Lawyers for the company said it had tried to sort the matter out amicably.

Mr Kinsella had been asked to step aside as the chairman of the company's audit committee so that the woman concerned would not have to have one-to-one contact with him.

But a senior lawyer for the company said Mr Kinsella could not understand another person's point of view and claimed there was no malice in the press release that had been issued. The company behaved properly in difficult circumstances that were not of its own making, he said.

Lawyers for Mr Kinsella urged the jury to award him big damages, claiming the company had aggravated matters by accusing him of being a liar and a perjurer.

Mr Kinsella was awarded 9m euros in damages and 1m euros in aggravated damages.

The award is the highest for defamation in the history of the Irish state.

A lawyer for the company said it was "off the Richter scale" and it was inconceivable that it would not be set aside by the Irish Supreme Court.

Kenmare Resources issued a statement saying it was "shocked" at the jury's verdict and would "immediately and vigorously appeal the decision".

Mr Justice Eamon de Valera granted a stay on the award, pending a Supreme Court appeal, for all but 500,000 euro.

Outside the court, Mr Kinsella said he was "exhilarated and vindicated" by the verdict.

He had claimed he became an international "laughing stock" as a result of the release.