PM loses one of ‘seven’ defamation suits

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The Prime Minister has lost a case of defamation brought against him by a former ambassador – and this appears to be just one of seven pending similar matters.

On April 3 2017, US-based Antiguan national Dr Isaac Newton sued PM Gaston Browne for comments he made in a March 2017 press release.

Browne is alleged to have impugned Newton’s conduct as an ambassador under the former United Progressive Party (UPP) administration.

The PM’s comments were apparently in response to Newton’s critique of statements Browne had made in Parliament relating to the US State Department’s 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR).

The study had outlined that Antigua and Barbuda had an immoderate amount of corruption allegations where the perpetrators were able to evade the hand of the law.

The international management consultant therefore sued the Prime Minister and, on Tuesday, High Court Judge Marissa Robertson ruled in Newton’s favour. Newton, who is also a political advisor, will therefore be awarded damages which will be assessed by the court.

Newton was represented by lawyer Lawrence Daniel while the Prime Minister was represented by Anthony Asthapan in the trial.

But the court will likely be seeing much more of the Prime Minister since he has other upcoming matters of alleged character assassination, brought by current and former political opponents Wilmoth Daniel, Damani Tabor, George Whenner, Vere Bird III, Gisele Isaac and Harold Lovell.

Bird, who is the chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda True Labour Party, filed a claim in the High Court against Browne on December 12 2019 for words published by the PM on Facebook in November.

He told Observer he believes his case is “rock solid”.

He continued, “The ones that I do know, they have very solid cases also …people who open up their mouth and defame people need to realise it’s a lot easier to prove a defamation case in the civil courts than murder and all those other things.”

Isaac, chairman of the United Progressive Party, congratulated Newton and added that she will be going ahead with her case especially since the Prime Minister, when given an opportunity to withdraw his statements, chose not to do so.

“I’m very encouraged by the fact that Dr Newton won his case,” she added. According to Bird, being found guilty of defamation can cost the perpetrator around $70,000 which means that if Browne loses all of the upcoming matters, he could be facing having to pay almost half a million dollars in damages.

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