The ways of the court will always be challenged by people who feel that they were unjustly done. We have seen this a lot. We have seen cases determined by a lower court and overturned by a higher court. This is because of the interpretation of aspects of the law. With law there is no right and wrong. All there is are rulings depending on interpretations.
There are lawyers who are always prepared to use the system to their advantage, sometimes taking advantage of those who are not as au fait with the law. Such is one case that is being appealed by Kaieteur News.
Some years ago, a prominent lawyer moved to the courts claiming libel over a letter written by Charrandass Persaud and published by Kaieteur News. The letter contained some statements about lawyer Mursilene Bacchus.
Of course, Bacchus found these statements offensive and he moved to the courts. He sued Charrandass Persaud and the newspaper. In addition, he sued the publisher Glenn Lall and editor Adam Harris. He spread his net, because he argued that someone had to pay.
I am not a lawyer, but I will bet that Glenn Lall and Adam Harris were incorrectly sued. Lall may be the owner of the paper and Harris may be the editor, but they never libeled Bacchus. Further, to my layman’s mind, there was nothing libelous in the letter.
I will not comment on the letter, but suffice it to say that the writ of the action was delivered to Kaieteur News. It was received and signed for by Dale Andrews, who has since died. The newspaper never received any notice of further action.
That the original writ was never seen by the people who matter at the newspaper is not a concern of the courts. It will argue that once the writ was served, the newspaper should have systems in place for these to be duly forwarded to the relevant people.
But there must be other notices informing of the various court appearances. None was served on the newspaper. But something interesting happened. The matter was languishing until Charrandass Persaud left the country. Bacchus was aware of this, so he moved to have the matter expedited.
No notice was sent to Kaieteur News of the matter, so the newspaper was never given a chance to defend itself. I say this because I searched high and low for any legal notice and found none. I subsequently learnt that Bacchus got the matter called in January and secured judgement on April 1, 2019.
This so-called libel was in the courts for more than five years. Perhaps the late Dale Andrews’s actions caused the paper to lapse in filing a defence way back then. Again, that is of no concern to the courts.
I happened to be sitting in office when I got a call from a lawyer informing me that judgement was handed down against Kaieteur News in the sum of $6.5 million. It was said that the judge cited the newspaper for disrespect and so levied punitive damages to teach the newspaper a lesson.
I called Bacchus and asked him why he chose to proceed in such a surreptitious manner. He knows me well. I am a mere phone call away. If the cost of the call would have been too much, he could have caused his lawyer to inform me of anything.
To his credit, Bacchus said that we could work out something. When his lawyer did call, I told him of my conversation with Bacchus. In a subsequent conversation, Bacchus said that whatever we worked out must not make light of the judge’s award. I hasten to say that I do not spend Glenn Lall’s money, so I informed him of the situation.
Lo and behold, a mere six weeks after the judgement, a copy of which is still to be received by the newspaper, Bacchus’s lawyer sent a letter on Friday informing Glenn Lall and me that he was instructed to begin proceedings to levy against whom, I do not know.
If it is me, then I have a little house and a car. If it is Glenn, then he has more than I do. If it is Kaieteur News, then there is a lot more. But with Charrandass Persaud being the number one defendant, I am at a loss to ascertain why Bacchus never made a move against Persaud.
In instances like this, one cannot but help think that lawyers can conspire against a client. One gets another to libel him then disappears. The party that publishes the libel is left holding the bag. At the end of the day there is nothing to stop them from splitting whatever proceed they secure from their conniving action.
When Glenn Lall called Charrandass Persaud, he said that he knew nothing of the matter. This is interesting, especially since the courts should have notified him even before his now much talked about action in the National Assembly.
Being a lawyer, he would have secured legal representation. This matter would never have reached this stage.
For example, Bacchus is representing Aeshwar Deonarine in a matter filed against Minister David Patterson and Kaieteur News. Attorney-at-law Ronald Burch-Smith is representing Patterson. The arguments he proffered would have been the same for Kaieteur News. There are no surprises here.
That matter should have gone to trial and Mr. Burch-Smith said that he is sorry that the judge opted to recuse herself. Deonarine is not coming back, so I cannot see him testifying in his own case.
Kaieteur News has since appealed this judgement. It is going to cost the company money, but that is to be expected, especially when a newspaper has to defend itself against sneaky attacks.
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