Dublin lawyer wins €140k damages after mistaken identity report

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley

A lawyer who was wrongly identified in an evening news report as a solicitor who was accused of fraud has been awarded €140,000 in damages by the High Court.

Dublin lawyer David Christie sued TV3 after he was pictured in a news report about his client Thomas Byrne, a solicitor who was then accused of 50 counts of theft and forgery involving €52 million and later convicted.

Footage of Mr Christie walking alone to the Criminal Courts of Justice was broadcast alongside a narration detailing Mr Byrne’s charges.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley said the juxtaposition, which TV3 defended as an “innocent mistake” and an “editing error”, was unfortunate.

Mr Christie said he had advised the cameraman that his client was not with him that day and was shocked to later see his image broadcast on television. The report led to Mr Christie being abused and harassed by strangers and former clients.

TV3 broadcast an apology on 15 November 2013 and offered to donate €1,000 to a charity of Mr Christie’s choice, but the offer was rejected as insulting.

The matter was dealt with under the Defamation Act 2009 and Ms Justice O’Malley determined that Mr Christie was owed €140,000 in damages.

TV3’s contrition was taken into account as mitigation, bringing the award down from €200,000.

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