July 11, 2013

A Donegal businessman claims a newspaper article about him filming the birth of his baby daughter wrongly portrayed him as “some kind of headcase running around with a camera.”HIgh Court

John McCauley (46), who is involved in property and construction, told a High Court jury he was disgusted by the article written by columnist Brenda Power in the Sunday Times in 2009.

The article arose out of a separate action brought by Mr McCauley in which he sued the midwife and the hospital where the birth took place over the interruption of his filming by the midwife.

He claimed he had got permission from the doctor to film and that his partner, Jurgita Jachimaviciute, who gave birth to their first child Simone that night, had requested he film it.

He lost that action against the hospital and Ms Power later wrote a comment piece about the case.

In his defamation action before a judge and jury of eight women and four men, Mr McCauley claims the article meant he showed no consideration or care for his partner and the baby.

He also claims it meant he failed to reassure or comfort his partner in what was alleged by the paper to be an emergency situation but which he says was not the case. He also says it meant he was motivated by self-interest with no appreciation for his role in the delivery of the baby.

The defendants deny the claims and say the article was true, fair comment and enjoyed qualified privilege.

Mr McCauley, a plasterer by trade who is originally from Donegal but now living in Lithuania with his partner and two children, told the court that on the night of the birth, staff at the hospital appeared to change shift and the midwife who came on was very abrupt and uncommunicative.

Only that his partner was so close to giving birth, he said he would have asked for someone else to attend, he said. When the midwife asked him to stop filming, he said he would rather not but she asked him again and he did.

Mr McCauley said there was a lot of publicity about the court case he took against the hospital which he lost in February 2009.

On March 1st that year, he read Ms Power’s article and said he could not believe it.

“I could not believe someone who obviously knew nothing about the court case or about what led to the case could write such a lot of nonsense… I was disgusted at the way she portrayed me as some some kind of headcase running around with a camera”.

Mr McCauley denied a suggestion in the article there was an emergency situation during the delivery. It was not an emergency because a decision had been taken much earlier in the evening to deliver by C-section and the child was not born till 11.10pm, he said.

He said almost everything in the article was untrue except the fact he had lost his case against the hospital. He felt very angry and sad particularly as he had got comments about it from people in Ireland, Lithuania, Dubai and Turkey.

Earlier his counsel Colm Smyth SC told the jury the article was an “outrageous and malicious” piece of journalism and the jury should award aggravated damages. The hearing continues.