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Suzanne McGonagle
HE Irish News yesterday
won a landmark legal bat-
tle after a judge threw out
the case of a former British
army secret agent inside the IRA,
who claimed the publication of
a photograph of him had endan-
gered his life.
In what was last night described
by Irish News editor Noel Doran
as “an important victory for press
freedom”, the judge dismissed
Peter Keeley’s action against the
Allegations of breach of privacy
and copyright from Mr Keeley – a
former British agent who used the
name Kevin Fulton – were reject-
ed by the judge who also ordered
costs against him, leaving the ex-
spy facing a potential five-figure
legal bill.
District Judge Isobel Brownlie
ruled in favour of the newspaper
after Mr Keeley had mounted a
case against The Irish News claim-
ing that the unauthorised use of
an unmasked, self-taken picture
had exposed him to heightened
But in delivering her judgment
yesterday, the judge said she was
unimpressed by Mr Keeley’s evi-
dence, describing him as “disin-
genuous” and said The Irish News
was “entitled to publish the pho-
tograph and the article”.
Mr Keeley (52) had issued pro-
ceedings following the publication
of a photograph in the newspaper
in April 2011.
He had objected to the photo-
graph’s publication and was seek-
ing £5,000 damages from The Irish
News for alleged breach of privacy
and copyright.
The photograph accompanied
a report in connection with a
separate lawsuit that his ex-wife
had taken against the Ministry of
Defence, the PSNI chief constable
and Freddie Scappaticci, the west
Belfast man who denies allega-
tions that he was the army spy
codenamed Stakeknife.
Margaret Keeley claimed she
was interrogated by an IRA secu-
rity team, including Scappaticci,
following a failed plot to murder
a senior RUC officer in Belfast in
She also alleges wrongful arrest
and false imprisonment by the
security forces who held her for
three days after the assassination
Mrs Keeley believes her deten-
tion was part of an elaborate sham
to protect her husband’s cover.
Mr Keeley claimed that an im-
age of him, that he had taken in a
photo booth for an international
driving licence, should never have
featured in the newspaper report.
In his evidence, given behind
screens at Belfast County Court
earlier this year, the Newry-born
former soldier said he would al-
ways be under a death sentence
from republicans.
He said he did not socialise or
allow himself to be photographed
and had claimed publishing the
self-taken photograph was like a
soldier being shot with his own
Mr Keeley claimed that the
newspaper publication had
caused him “severe annoyance
and worry” and said the photo-
graph belonged to him.
But lawyers for the newspaper
had cited the right to freedom of
Bernard Fitzpatrick BL, instruct-
ed by James F Fitzpatrick and Co –
representing The Irish News – had
argued that it was an absurd case
brought by a high-profile figure
who regularly courted the media.
In delivering her judgment yes-
terday, Judge Brownlie dismissed
the case and said Mr Keeley “did
not impress me in his evidence”
and was “unsatisfactory and dis-
ingenuous in this regard”.
She said he had a “high public
profile” and “not what he said, in
that ‘he keeps himself to himself’”.
She also pointed to the fact
that the “photograph was readily
available online” with the image
returning around 250,000 hits on
While she said an individual
had a “reasonable expectation of
privacy”, there was “no evidence
that the relevant photograph was
taken surreptitiously”.
The judge also said she was “not
impressed by the plaintiff’s steps”
to get the photograph removed
online repeating her assumption
of him as being “disingenuous”.
She said she was satisfied the ar-
ticle was “proportionate” adding
that The Irish News was “entitled
to publish the photograph and the
Judge Brownlie also awarded
costs, which are estimated to be
five figures, to The Irish News.
Irish News editor Noel Doran last
night stressed the significance of
the verdict which he said was “an
important victory for press free-
dom and also represents a com-
plete vindication of the actions of
our paper”.
PETER Keeley, better known by the
name Kevin Fulton, was recruited by
British military intelligence to spy on
the IRA in the mid-1980s.
Originally from Newry, he had joined
the British army when he was 18
before being selected to spy on
republicans in the Down and Armagh
He returned to civilian life after being
given false discharge papers so he
could begin infiltrating the Provisional
He allegedly became one of the
organisation’s bomb specialists and
was at the heart of many operations,
while also passing information back to
his handlers.
But when the RUC foiled an attempt
by the IRA to kill senior RUC detective
Derek Martindale in 1994, Keeley was
He claims he was abducted,
tortured and interrogated by Freddie
Scappaticci, the west Belfast man
who denies allegations that he
was another army spy codenamed
It later emerged that he had tipped
off police about the attack.
Keeley has also claimed he warned
his police handlers in August 1998
that the Real IRA was planning an
attack, shortly before 29 people
including a woman pregnant with
twins were killed in Omagh.
More recently he has given evidence
to the Smithwick Tribunal, alleging
Garda collusion in the IRA murders of
RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt
Bob Buchanan after leaving Dundalk
Garda Station in 1989.
He rejected claims he was a
“pathological liar” and described his
role as an agent as a “labour of love”,
saying he had worked for the British
army, MI5, Customs and Excise and
Suzanne McGonagle
Irish News editor Noel Doran said:
“I feel that today’s judgment is an
important victory for press freedom
and also represents a complete
vindication of the actions of our
“If Mr Keeley had won his case,
we would not only have been left
with a huge bill but it would have
been legally very difficult for any
news organisation to put a proper
spotlight on the shadowy world of
informers and agents.
“However, thanks to a
comprehensive and carefully
argued ruling from the judge, the
three main claims put forward by
Mr Keeley, covering his security,
copyright over a photograph and
right to privacy, have all been
firmly rejected.
“I am very grateful to our legal
team, and I think we have
demonstrated that The Irish News
will offer a very robust defence
before any court when we believe
that a point of principle is at
Agent’s role a ‘labour of love’
Judgment a ‘victory
for press freedom’
n FAILED COURT BID: Peter Keeley, also known as Kevin Fulton, a former British army
double agent, failed in his breach of privacy action against The Irish News
The judge was “not
impressed by the
plaintiff’s steps” to
get the photograph
removed online
repeating her
assumption of him
as being

Irish News wins legal battle
after publishing spy’s photo