On November 28, 2012, “The X Factor” U.K. judge Louis Walsh won a settlement for €500000 (which equals £400,000 or $647,750), an apology, and a £180,000 (or $288,000) reimbursement for legal costs from The Sun tabloid for a 2011 article in The Sun that reported that Walsh was under police investigation for sexual assault on another man.
Leonard Watters, the 25-year-old man who accused Walsh of sexually groping him, was sentenced to 11 months in jail for lying about the incident. Watters, who had faced a maximum sentence of five years for the crime, was originally sentenced in Dublin to six months in jail on January 25, 2012. When Watters appealed his sentence, instead of getting the sentence reduced, as he had hoped, the sentence was extended to 11 months on July 6, 2012.
At a November 2011 court appearance, Watters apologized for his false accusation.
Walsh took legal action against British tabloid The Sun for publishing information about the police investigation of Walsh. The Sun’s settlement with Walsh was made before the case went to trial.
The Sun’s apology was read in a court hearing:
“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 An Garda Siochana, 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 apologies to Louis Walsh for any distress caused to him as a result of our article.”
As previously reported, Walsh’s ordeal began when Watters filed a police complaint in April 2011, saying that Walsh groped Watters’ genitals in the bathroom of the nightclub Krystle at the Russell Court Hotel in Dublin. The two men had just met that night. Walsh adamantly denied the accusation when it was made public in June 2011, and he was investigated and cleared by police. Watters was then arrested for filing a false complaint.
Watters was described in the media as a single father who works as a dance teacher. It was reported that he auditioned for “The X Factor” U.K. in 2010, but he was rejected by producers at the open-call auditions, and he never got to audition in front of the show’s judges.
After Walsh was cleared of the accusation, he said in interviews that he was left so traumatized by the ordeal that he briefly had suicidal thoughts, and he is suffering from insomnia and panic attacks.
Walsh, who is a longtime personal manager in the music industry, currently represents former Westlife singer Shane Filan, Jedward (identical twin brothers who are a former “X Factor” U.K. finalist act from 2009) and the female quintet Wonderland.
Watters has appealed his sentence, and his appeal will be heard in court in June 2012. According to Breaking News, his defense counsel revealed some background information in court about Watters, who was described by his counsel as having a drinking problem and engaging in other self-destructive behavior:
The defense had told the district court that Watters had become regarded as “a pariah in his community”, and thought of “as a Walter Mitty” and a liar.
At the age of 13, he suffered serious burns in an accident, which has left him scarred and played havoc with his schooling.
When he turned 18, he was awarded €800,000 in compensation which he frittered away over a two-year period on “fancy cars” and alcohol, “drinking two bottles of Southern Comfort a day. He returned home to his parents penniless and broke” but later took up work teaching dancing which has ended as a result of this case. The district court had heard that Watters had also engaged in episodes of self-harm.
He had been described by the defense as having a “fragile mind” and alcohol had a detrimental effect on his ability to function normally.
Watters, who is in receipt of €188 from a disability payment, had criminal convictions for breaching a barring order and for driving without a license or insurance.
The hearing to appeal Watters’ six-month jail sentence took place on July 2, 2012, at the Circuit Court in Dublin. Judge Katherine Delahunt presided over the hearing. According to the Irish Examiner newspaper, attorneys for Walsh and Watters were at the hearing. Watters’ attorney Cahir O’Higgins described Watters as a troubled individual with a history of alcoholism, self-harming, suicide attempts and money problems.
O’Higgins claimed that Watters suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because Watters was severely burned on his face, limbs and abdomen when Watters was 11 years old. In asking for leniency for Watters, O’Higgins added that Watters was drunk and star-struck on the night that he met Walsh, and that Watters’ lie about the sexual groping was a “cry for help.” A decision on the appeal is expected to be made on July 6, 2012. Watters is out on bail until the decision is made.
In July 2012, according to the BBC: “Judge Katherine Delahunt said she was increasing [Watters’] sentence to 11 months. The last five months were suspended on condition he cooperated with probation services.” Watters was also ordered to go into rehab for his alcoholism.
Walsh commented on the settlement to the Daily Mirror about how his friends and colleagues have been very supportive and how they congratulated him about the settlement: “Simon called me today, so did Gary Barlow, so did Piers Morgan. All these people. People have come out of the woodwork supporting me. And Simon is a really good friend of mine. He knows me and knew. He just felt really sorry for me. He knew I was in a very bad place. Everybody around me has been a million percent supportive.”