Gemma O'Doherty ordered to remove defamatory videos on Beaumont Hospital

Ms O'Doherty said she stood over the claims she made about Beaumont Hospital, and the hospital's director of nursing, in three videos posted online.
Gemma O'Doherty ordered to remove defamatory videos on Beaumont Hospital

Gemma O'Doherty has been ordered to remove what a High Court judge described as defamatory videos posted on the internet about Dublin's Beaumont Hospital and its director of nursing.

The three videos contain statements by Ms Doherty about the hospital and its director of nursing, Maria Murray, including that staff are being allegedly "forced" to take what she claims are "experimental Covid-19 injections" which, she alleges, have killed thousands of people.

Ms O'Doherty also said in the videos that staff who did not take vaccines were allegedly harassed and demoted. She describes the hospital as a "death camp" and claims it employed "psychopaths" and had committed "crimes against humanity".

She further claimed the hospital had allegedly denied life-saving treatment to patients.

In a judgment, Mr Justice Senan Allen said he was making various orders, including injunctions requiring Ms O'Doherty to remove the videos, after finding they were defamatory and that she has no defence which is reasonably likely to succeed.

What Ms O'Doherty had said in her reporting about the plaintiffs, he said, was "devoid of substance" and there was no prospect of her ever standing it up.

Free speech

He said courts must be careful not to interfere with free speech or the free expression of opinions, however, a court will intervene if it can be shown that statements have been made, and are liable to be repeated, for which there is no reasonable basis.

The judge said he absolutely agreed with Ms O'Doherty that journalists have a duty to report and comment on matters in the public interest, even if what is reported has a negative impact on the reputations of those involved.

He further agreed with her, that journalists have a role in holding powerful institutions, like the hospital, to account, and that by shining a light on poor behaviour forces public bodies to do better and improve standards.

However, he rejected Ms Doherty's claim that the pursuit of the injunctions against her was tantamount to denying journalists a human right to freely report on matters of public importance.

With the right of free speech, "comes the responsibility not to wantonly or recklessly impugn the good name of others," he said.

Cease publication

He said he was satisfied to make orders requiring the defendant to remove the videos and cease publishing the defamatory statements at the centre of the action about Ms Murray and the hospital.

The court declined to make an order restraining Ms O'Doherty from publishing anything about the hospital or Ms Murray, as he said that "goes much too far".

The orders are to remain in place pending the outcome of the full hearing of the plaintiffs' defamation action against Ms O'Doherty.

Eoin McCullough SC, appearing with Michael Binchy Bl for the hospital and Ms Murray, said the videos were defamatory of their clients.

They sought injunctions, under the Defamation Act 2009, in the context of defamation proceedings, to have the videos removed and to prevent any re-publication of them.

Counsel contended that Ms O’Doherty has no defence with any reasonable prospect of success.

'A waste of public money'

Opposing the applications Ms O'Doherty said she would "not be silenced" over what she said was one of the biggest scandals in the history of the State which she had been reporting on. She also said that she stands over what she said in the videos.

In her submissions Ms O'Doherty said the hospital's action against her was "spurious", "outrageous" and "a waste of public money".

In his judgement Mr Justice Allen said the action was not about Ms O'Doherty's "fringe views on vaccines or on Covid-19", as she "was entitled to her own opinion, whether there is an emergency or not," the judge said.

The judge said it was his firm view that the statements made by Ms O 'Doherty have no reasonable prospect of being established.

To establish the truth of what she has said about the plaintiffs, the judge said, Ms O'Doherty would have to prove that the plaintiffs "secretly agree with her views" that there is no covid-19 crisis, and that hospital staff should be given vitamins and zinc instead of vaccine injunctions. The judge said that he was quite satisfied that this was not a defence that is reasonably likely to succeed.

The judge concluded that the costs of the action should be treated as 'costs in the cause' and should be considered when final orders regarding costs are made after the full hearing of the action.

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