X Factor judge Louis Walsh has settled his 500,000 euro (£403,500) defamation case against Robert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers following a story published in The Irish Sun falsely accusing him of sexually assaulting unemployed dance teacher Leonard Watters in a Dublin nightclub.
Watters, a 25-year-old father of two from Navan, Meath, alleged that Walsh had groped him in celebrity hotspot Krystle following a Westlife concert in April 2011. On 23 June 2011, the Irish Sun ran a story headlined “Louis Probed Over ‘Sex Attack’ on Man in Loo” based on the allegations, which Walsh always strenuously denied.
After CCTV footage from the nightclub called the claims into question, Watters admitted the story was unfounded and was arrested, charged and jailed for six months in July for wrongly accusing Walsh.
Walsh sued News Group for aggravated and exemplary damages. The Irish Sun admitted the accusation was false but denied the claims of defamation, insisting that it acted fairly.
Outside court today, Walsh said: “I am very satisfied with this total vindication for me, but I remain very angry at the treatment at the hands of the Sun.
“I was absolutely gutted and traumatised that these allegations against me should have been published, particularly as I had made it clear at the time there was not one iota of truth in them, and was totally bewildered who would have made up this type of story.”
Eoin McCullough – senior counsel for News Group Newspapers – said in a statement to the high court in Dublin: “The Sun published an article in its editions of 23 June 2011, in which we reported that Louis Walsh was being investigated in relation to a sexual assault on Leonard Watters.
“In fact, it transpired that Leonard Watters had made a false statement to [Irish police force] An Garda Siochána, and he has since been convicted in relation to this matter.
“The Sun fully accepts that the alleged assault did not occur in the first place and Louis Walsh is entirely innocent of any such assault.
“The Sun unreservedly apologises to Louis Walsh for any distress caused to him as a result of our article.”