The prime minister, Gaston Browne, has lost his bid to get the High Court to strike out a defamation lawsuit against him. The case is in relation to comments he made at the Parliament building last year about Wilmoth Daniel, who was then an opposition Member of Parliament.
PM Browne, through his lawyer Dr. David Dorsett, asked the court to dismiss the claim, arguing that he has absolute privilege and should not be sued for defamation since he made his comments in Parliament.
Section 24(2)(i) of the Defamation Act 2015 provides an absolute defence to the claim if the matter is published in either House of Parliament by a member of either House. It should be noted that the specific alleged defamatory words by PM Browne, whose supporters call him “Worl’ Boss”, cannot be published since this would amount to the same offence of which Daniel is complaining.
But High Court Master Jan Drysdale – who agreed with counter-arguments put forward by Daniel’s lawyer, Charlesworth Tabor – ruled yesterday that parliamentary immunity is only applicable if the comments were made during parliamentary proceedings.
On the occasion where Browne made the allegedly defamatory statements on January 2, 2018, several people were allegedly in the Parliament building within earshot, but the proceedings had been suspended due to a power outage.
Tabor confirmed the aforementioned to OBSERVER media yesterday, adding that the case now has to go to trial.
The lawsuit was filed early last year after Daniel, nicknamed “Pitbull”, demanded an apology from PM Browne and threatened to sue him if he did not do so within the 14-day deadline given by his lawyer, Tabor.
The PM issued an apology of sorts which Daniel rejected.