Dealing with Eddie Hobbs
In accordance with our practice at Village, we went to some pains to ensure we had both sides of the story concerning Eddie Hobbs and therefore we emailed him an early draft of the article on Wednesday afternoon (7 September), having first phoned his office and asked him to phone us.
We phoned his office again at 8.50am on Thursday morning (8 September) and then at 9.15am, without success.
Eddie Hobbs emailed us at 9.45am, stating:
I have just read your email. I simply have not had an ability to return all phone calls I received given the current situation which I'm sure you will understand. I have previously made a public statement published in the Irish Times in connection with the matters you raised, however, given that you have seen fit to dedicate something to the detail of the information which Mr. Taylor who is a convicted fraudster has been circulating for many months to many other publications who have also examined this matter, I will be responding in due course.
There was a phone conversation shortly after that and around 11.00pm a later draft of the article was emailed to him.
At 12.06pm he left a message on the voice answering service of Vincent Browne this stated:
"Hallo Vincent. This is Eddie Hobbs. Just to let you know the mail has gone to you on the 11.00 o'clock position (ie the draft sent at 11.00am). I trust that you will print my response as it is a matter of considerable importance to me, as you can imagine, although I have been aware of this stuff for some time circulating; and that, you will, you know, I know you will do this anyway, Vincent, but that, you know, it is balanced by my response and I think it is appropriate for all convened and if you do need to contact me text me on my mobile 087-XXX XXXX and I will ring you back. Talk to you soon.
At 12.08 he emailed us his reply which we reproduced in full on these pages. Further telephone contact took place and in one of those conversations he said:
"Frankly, Vincent, I am glad this material is getting out. It has been all around town for the last while and it may as well come out now".
Then, after Village had gone to press the following email arrived at 14.40:
Since our discussion I submitted your proposed article to my solicitors who have advised that it is significantly defamatory.
Vincent Browne replied at 15.06 stating the following:
In one of our last conversations you said you were glad this material was out. According to the note I took of this remark: what you said was "Frankly, Vincent, I am glad this material is getting out. It has been all around town for the last while and it may as well come out now".
I incorporated all the changes you suggested and, as agreed, published your response in full.
Eddie Hobbs replied as follows at 15.12:
I refer to your email. There is clear blue water between our discussion and your contention where you stated as a matter of fact that I orchestrated tax fraud – that is the problem. You are stating as a matter of fact that I was fully in the knowledge in connection with the personal tax affairs of certain clients and that is simply untrue. There are other matters subsidiary to this which also arise from the slant which you are taking especially from the headline. You will be hearing from my solicitors and I would urge you to very carefully consider your position on this matter.
(The contention that Eddie Hobbs "orchestrated" a tax fraud was withdrawn from the version of the article that went to press on Thursday afternoon. We do not contend he "orchestrated" a tax fraud and we hope this is clear from the accompanying article.)
Vincent Browne made the following response at 15.45
I am surprised by your email just now received and attached below.
You clearly assented to the publication of the material. We have had several phone conversations, in none of which you claimed that the material was untrue or defamatory. You stated categorically you were glad the material was now being published. In addition you left a message at 12.06pm today on my voice mail which stated the following (I have just now transcribed it):
"Hallo Vincent. This is Eddie Hobbs. Just to let you know the mail has gone to you on the 11.00 o clock position (ie the draft I had sent you then). I trust that you will print my response as it is a matter of considerable importance to me, as you can imagine, although I have been aware of this stuff for some time circulating; and that, you will, you know, I know you will do this anyway, Vincent, but that, you know, it is balanced by my response and I think it is appropriate for all convened and if you do need to contact me text me on my mobile 087-266,5000 and I will ring you back. Talk to you soon."
I took into account all your points and suggestions and we have published in full your response.
I regret you are taking this line now, having previously been cooperative and appreciative of the care I was taking to incorporate your side of the story.
A few minutes later Vincent Browne added the addendum:
Incidentally, we had changed the word "orchestrated" to "assisted", on the cover, the headline and the article.
At 16.28 we received the following email:
By this stage you will have received a communication from my solicitors. One further important point of information for you in your deliberations is the fact that there is no such thing as a tax fraud. There is only such a thing as a tax offence – see my last email. I really do hope you move correctly on this matter for all concerned including yourself, the magazine and the printers.
The letter from the solicitors Lavelle and Coleman arrived at 17.12. It claimed the article was "highly defamatory" of Eddie Hobbs. It accused us of failing to disclose that the person making allegations about Mr Hobbs was Tony Taylor. It stated both transactions which we referred to were lawful and, accordingly, comments we had made about Eddie Hobbs were "without justification and unfair". It went: "We call on you . Now to desist from publishing this article as it will inevitably cause serious harm to our client's reputation. If you proceed to publish the article as it stands, our client will be obliged to take whatever steps may be necessary including libel proceedings to
Vindicate his good name and reputation".
We are happy to publish any further representations Eddie Hobbs wishes to make concerning this but we have refrained from publishing this draft of the article because of what we have perceived as inconsistencies in his dealings with us. We acknowledge howver that he has not dealt with us dishonestly or otherwise improperly.