Top loyalist ‘Mackers’ fails in bid to gag Sunday Life over UVF leadership claims

Top loyalist Stephen ‘Mackers’ Matthews has lost a last-minute High Court bid to stop Sunday Life naming him as the reported head of the East Belfast UVF.

he inside story on how the gang has had more than £1m worth of drugs seized by police in the last year is revealed in tomorrow’s edition.

But when the newspaper contacted Matthews for comment, it was told by Jamie Bryson that Matthews planned to issue injunction proceedings to prevent his name being mentioned in the story.

Sunday Life’s lawyers then received legal papers from Matthews’ solicitors on Friday evening and the case was quickly assigned to a judge.

The injunction hearing went ahead at 10am this morning in front of Mr Justice David Scoffield at the High Court in Belfast.

After hearing two hours of detailed submissions by barristers for Sunday Life and Matthews, he threw out the application.

Counsel for Matthews then asked for an anonymity order to be granted, which would have prevented Sunday Life reporting the fact that Matthews had tried to gag the newspaper.

However, after objections from Sunday Life’s barrister, Gerald Simpson QC, Mr Justice Scoffield also refused that application.

Legal representatives for Matthews decided not to take the matter to the Court of Appeal.

Matthews continues to deny any involvement whatsoever with the UVF or criminality in general.

Commenting on the High Court victory, Martin Breen, deputy editor-in-chief of the Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life, said: “Sunday Life has a long and proud history of publishing important stories.

“We were not prepared to drop the story due to threats of High Court action. We are very happy that Mr Justice Scoffield has recognised the importance of freedom of expression in our society and that we are now free to publish this story.”

Edward McCann, deputy publisher at Sunday Life’s parent company, Mediahuis, said: “This verdict was an important win for press freedom, with the court re-emphasising that, in general, editors, rather than judges, are best placed to decide what is published in newspapers.

“Mediahuis believes in public interest journalism. In what was a very considered judgment delivered at short notice, Mr Justice Scoffield acknowledged the public interest in the story.

“I would like to thank our solicitor, Fergal McGoldrick, and barrister, Gerald Simpson QC, for their hard work — and the Sunday Life team too.”

You can read the full story behind the £1m police crackdown on the UVF’s death-dealing drugs racket in tomorrow’s Sunday Life, both in print and online.

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