Football coach seeks more time to bring defamation case 

A football coach is seeking High Court permission to take defamation proceedings over a newspaper report on a French court hearing at which he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for smuggling merchandise dangerous to public health. 
Darren Lee Proudfoot needs permission to bring a case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), publishers of the Irish Daily Mirror, because he is outside a one year deadline for bringing defamation actions. 
 
Mr Proudfoot, originally from Dublin, was travelling from his apartment in Alicante, Spain, with a friend when the hire car he was driving was stopped by customs officials near Avignon, France, in January 2018. 
 
The car contained thousands of packets of Zoplicone, a psychotropic drug used to treat sleep disorders. Mr Proudfoot later admitted in Nimes Criminal Court to smuggling merchandise dangerous to public health without documentary evidence. 
 
He was sentenced to 18 months and fined. He appealed the sentence, eventually served 6½ months and was released in August 2018. Around the time he was sentenced, the Irish Daily Mirror carried a report of the court hearing and sentence. 
 
Time limit 
Mr Proudfoot now wants the High Court to extend the one year time limit (from date of publication) for bringing his defamation proceedings over that report. He claims a reference to him in that report as being “a known dealer and was under surveillance in his home country” was completely false. 
 
MGN denies defamation and says it was a fair and accurate report covered by qualified privilege which applies to reports of foreign proceedings. 
 
Mr Proudfoot said his brother sent him the newspaper report while he was in prison in May. The claim in the report that he was a known drug dealer and under surveillance was false and seriously damaging to his reputation, he said. 
 
He said he found it “impossible” to get employment from his previous employers as a football coach as a result of the report. He said he went to a number of solicitors when he returned to Ireland but only last February, which was already outside the 12 month limit, got one to take the case. 
 
 
Richard Lyons SC, for Mr Proudfoot, argued there would be no meaningful prejudice to the defendant as MGN was still capable of adducing the evidence it required, such as that from the court reporter or court officials at the hearing. 
 
One of the primary reasons he was unable to bring defamation proceedings before the one year deadline was becasue he was incarcerated, counsel said. 
 
Good reason 
Shane English BL, for MGN, said Mr Proudfoot could have have made efforts to initiate proceedings while in prison, having learned of the report in May 2018, and had not shown good reason for further delay once released. 
 
As a defendant MGN was only required to say it has a good defence and it was a good defence of a fair and accurate report of foreign court proceedings. 
 
A plaintiff in a defamation case is required to act expeditiously and there was a prejudice to MGN from the loss of the deadline period and the financial burden imposed on it, he said. 
 
Mr Justice Robert Barr said he hopes to give his decision on Thursday. 
 
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