The editor of a quarterly magazine for ambulance workers last week won an apology and “substantial” damages from Take A Break magazine over an article in which his ex-wife alleged he had abducted their child and treated her so badly that she turned to cocaine.
Declan Heneghan, editor and proprietor of Ambulance Today, sued publisher H Bauer over an article headed “By helping others I helped myself” that appeared on 31 January last year.
Heneghan’s lawyer, Sarah Palin, told Justice Eady at the High Court on Friday, that H Bauer had published a number of “serious allegations” against her client concerning his relationship with his former wife and the treatment of their son.
The allegations were said to have come from the “real-life experiences” of his ex-wife, Dionne Heneghan.
While the article referred to Heneghan by the pseudonym “David”, he was recognisable by readers who knew him and his family because his ex-wife and son were identified by name, and appeared in photographs alongside the article.
Palin said: “Of particular concern was the accusation that Mr Heneghan was cruel and unreasonable towards his former wife at a time when she was struggling to care for their young child on her own.
“That allegation was entirely without foundation. As such, it represents a great slur on the claimant’s personal and professional integrity and has caused him considerable distress.
“One specific and particularly serious accusation made in the article was that Declan Heneghan had effectively abducted their child and hid him in a secret location where the police and social services could not find him for months, and that the courts had to hire a private investigator to track Declan Heneghan down and retrieve the child.
“In fact, and what the article did not say, was that Mrs Heneghan had asked Mr Heneghan to care for the child and that he had continued to care for the child as he did not believe the boy was safe with his mother.
“At all times, the police and social services were fully apprised of where Mr Heneghan and his son were living, and were content with Mr Heneghan caring for his son.
“It is also alleged that as a consequence of his behaviour towards her, Mrs Heneghan had started to take and become addicted to crack cocaine.
“Again, this accusation is not true. In fact, Dionne had become addicted to crack cocaine before she met Mr Heneghan, and during the course of their marriage, Mr Heneghan had made considerable efforts to help her overcome her addiction.”
She added: “Mr Heneghan prides himself on being a loving, caring and responsible parent to his son. He was naturally determined to clear his name and set the record straight.”
The magazine accepted the allegations were “untrue”, apologised, and agreed to pay Heneghan damages and his legal costs.
Tim Smith, for the publishers, said: “The defendant is here today to apologise unreservedly to Declan Heneghan for the hurt and damage he has suffered as a result of this article.
‘It accepts that the allegations complained of were entirely untrue and regrets that they were ever published.”