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Ex-army agent abandons legal battle over picture A

Published 07/03/2014




Former British army agent inside the IRA has abandoned his legal battle over the newspaper publication of his photograph.

Peter Keeley had been set to appeal the dismissal of his alleged breach of copyright claim against The Irish News.

But the one-time mI5 and RUC informer, who uses the pseudonym Kevin Fulton, ended his challenge after a High Court security for costs application was brought against him.

The move could have resulted in mr Keeley being forced to lodge cash in court to cover legal bills had his planned appeal ultimately failed.

Lawyers for The Irish News were set to argue it is almost inconceivable that the ex-spy, now living in hiding, would voluntary pay any costs against him.

Papers prepared as part of their application stated: "It is respectfully submitted that he will take full advantage of his shadowy status to avoid any payment whatsoever." Mr Keeley had been seeking £5,000 damages for breach of privacy and copyright.

He also claimed unauthorised use of an unmasked, self-taken picture has exposed him to heightened danger.

The 52-year-old issued proceedings over a photograph which appeared in the newspaper in April 2011.

The report was in connection with a separate lawsuit his ex-wife took against the ministry of Defence, the chief constable and Freddie Scappaticci, the west Belfast British army agent, codenamed Stakeknife. margaret Keeley claimed she was interrogated by an IrA security team, including Scappaticci, following a failed plot to murder a senior RUC officer in Belfast in 1994.

She also alleges wrongful arrest and false imprisonment by the security forces who held her for three days after the assassination attempt. Mrs Keeley believes her detention was part of an elaborate sham to protect her husband's cover.

But according to her ex-husband an image of himself he took in a photo-booth for an international driving licence should never have featured in the newspaper report.

The Irish News defended the actionsaying it was an absurd case brought by a high-profile figure who regularly courts the media.

The court was told the image was part of a Google search which returned nearly 250,000 hits.

In a landmark victory for press freedom Judge Isobel Brownlie held that the photograph was in the public domain and easily accessible online.

Dismissing mr Keeley's case last November, she criticised his evidence and pointed to his high public profile.

Irish News editor Noel Doran said: "The case taken against our paper by Mr Keeley never had any merit and I am pleased that the saga has reached a conclusion.

"I think we have demonstrated again that we are ready to go to court and defend our position robustly whenever we feel a point of principle is involved.

"I also believe that today's development, coming after an important ruling by Mr Justice Gillen in favour of The Sunday World at the High Court in Belfast last month, represents another good day for the freedom of the press."