By Toni Frederick
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- The Democrat newspaper in St Kitts has been ordered by the court to pay Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas $350,000 in a defamation case dating back to 2011.
The Democrat, mouthpiece for the opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM), did not file a defence in the stipulated time, and a default judgment was awarded to the prime minister.
Jonel Powell, a member of the legal team for the paper, and a candidate for the PAM told WINN FM on Wednesday that counsel intended to appeal the amount.
“Liability aside, which has already been decided upon, the quantum in a defamation matter must be awarded on the basis of the injury sustained or on the basis of the extent of the defamation if any at all… We believe that the article is not even defamatory in the first place,” he said.
Powell would not give details of why the Democrat had not filed a defence in the required time.
“It was as a result of a certain set of circumstances that the defendant company was facing at that point in time,” he replied when asked about the decision that will cost the paper $350,000; an amount which Powell says it cannot afford.
Meanwhile, Sylvester Anthony, legal counsel to the prime minister, scoffed at Powell’s assertion that the size of the judgment was disproportionate.
“The size of the award speaks to the egregious nature of the defamation,” he told WINN FM, reading a portion of the judgment related to an attempt to set aside the default judgment.
“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,” he read.
Anthony said there are a number of precedent setting cases in the jurisdiction including judgments against the Democrat, to support the amount of damages awarded to the prime minister.
“I wrote to the Democrat and told them that what was alleged was false, and asked for them to retract it, instead… it showed up on the website or vice versa, showed up in the newspaper. No retraction. No apology.”
The article published in the Democrat in December 2011 “Culture of Murder” appeared to imply that the prime minister had somehow been involved in the murder of Noel “Zambo” Heath.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network