BASSETERRE, St. Kitts CMC – The High Court has ordered an opposition aligned newspaper to pay Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas EC$350,000 (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) in damages for defamation.
Attorney Sylvester Anthony said that the Prime Minister had been able to get a default judgement against The Democrat newspaper after no defence was filed.
“They did try at a stage to file a defence because they applied to the Court to set aside the default judgement that we got and the Court dismissed their application.
“The problem they had is that the defence that they tried to file is not a defence known to the law of defamation and that is referred to as well in the judgement. So they really could not have defended the case,” Anthony said.
He said the size of the award speaks to the egregious nature of the defamation and disclosed that the court was very clear in its language in relation to the conduct of the defendant which is The Democrat.
“For example with regards to the attempt to set aside the default judgement, this is what the court had to say ‘In the case at Bar, even after the application to set aside the default judgment was denied, the defendant still refused to retract and apologize thereby showing that his actions were malicious and spiteful and further injured the claimant’s proper feelings of dignity and pride,’” Anthony said, reading from the judgement.
“These are the words of the Master. These are not my words. These are not the Prime Minister’s words. These are the words that described the conduct of The Democrat and as a result of that, the Court granted aggravated damages of $50, 000 over and above the $300, 000 thousand dollars that was given. We also asked for exemplary damages and the court also agreed with us.
“This is what the Court said in support of our view. ‘In the instant case given the admitted facts, the egregious, malicious and outrageous conduct of the defendant, merit an award of exemplary or punitive damages’.”
“Then the court went on to say that given the amount of the award that had already been made, she was of the view that that was sufficient to punish the defendant for its conduct,” said Anthony, adding that the Court was guided to its decision by a number of decisions.
Last year the newspaper, which is aligned to the main opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM), had been given until March this year to submit how it would meet the awards in damages handed down in favour of Dr. Douglas over the October 29, 2011 article entitled “Culture of Murder”.
The article “appeared to be alleging, among other things that Prime Minister Douglas murdered or caused the murder of Noel “Zambo” Heath and others,” according to the documents filed with the Court.
On March 28, 2012, a default judgment was ordered against The Democrat newspaper for defaming Dr. Douglas after the paper failed to file a defence.
In August last year, then Master in the High Court Pearletta Lanns, denied an application filed by The Democrat to set aside default judgment against it and ordered The Democrat to pay $1,000 in legal costs related to that application.