Northern Ireland

Terence Ewing loses Sunday Times privacy claim appeal

A man barred from issuing legal action in England and Wales has lost his appeal against a failed breach of privacy claim against The Sunday Times.

Senior judges in Belfast rejected Terence Ewing's allegation that a meeting with a journalist was subject to a confidentiality agreement.

A separate bid to have defamation proceedings against the newspaper reinstated was also dismissed.

The action was taken over an article published by The Sunday Times in 2007.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan set out how Mr Ewing, believed to be from London, has no connection with Northern Ireland.

'Vexatious litigant'

He had already been declared a "vexatious litigant" following an application by the attorney general and is prohibited from launching civil proceedings in England and Wales without High Court permission.

Mr Ewing was described as having a long history of litigation stretching back over many years.

He brought a privacy action in Belfast over an article published in the Sunday Times' Northern Ireland edition in February 2007.

The piece, headlined Heritage Fakers Hold Builders to Ransom, alleged that a non-profit group known as the Euston Trust accepted a secret payment to drop objections to a development in an English seaside town, despite claiming to campaign for the protection of Britain's architectural heritage.

According to the article the trust was run by Mr Ewing, although it stated that he emphatically denied ever having been offered or taken payments from developers.

Central to his case was a claim that he had a previous relationship, "as a confidential source", with one of the journalists who wrote the article.

He took his fight to the Court of Appeal after a High Court judge struck out the action.

Mr Ewing alleged this decision was biased and hostile towards him.

No reputation

Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justice Higgins and Mr Justice Stephens, said that the alleged confidentiality agreement was never raised in proceedings brought in England and Scotland.

Nor was it discussed in a recorded telephone call with the journalist in question, the court heard.

"We also consider that in light of the material available the learned trial judge was driven to the conclusion that the allegation that the meeting was confidential was untrue," Sir Declan said.

Turning to the defamation claim, the judge highlighted Mr Ewing's lack of connection with Northern Ireland.

No evidence was produced that anyone in Northern Ireland who knew him had read the article in the edition of the newspaper.

He travelled to Belfast for the purpose of downloading a copy of the article in the city library to publish to a friend he brought with him, the court heard.

Sir Declan said: "In short, the argument is that he has no reputation in Northern Ireland and that any damage that may have been done to him occurred as a result of the publication in Great Britain, where he resides."

In a ruling delivered earlier this month, he backed the original judge's decision that the proceedings were vexatious and should be thrown out to avoid an abuse of the court process.

Sir Declan added: "He was entitled to take into account the circumstances in which proceedings were issued here at the very end of the limitation period as an indication that these proceedings were a device to get round the failure of his proceedings elsewhere."

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