Supreme Court strikes out defence of Bacchus, BDS Ltd.
October 22, 2010
Supreme Court strikes out defence of Bacchus, BDS Ltd.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has struck out the defence of talk show host Junior Bacchus and BDS Limited, owners of Nice Radio, in a defamation case brought against them by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.{{more}}

The ruling was made in relation to a law suit brought against Bacchus for statements that he made during a broadcast on Nice Radio on March 16, last year.

At the time, Bacchus said the Prime Minister, his wife, and the Chairman of the National Properties Ltd are finding themselves owning state lands and there was no form of tender being made public for anyone to have a choice.

“There is information that would be unearthed in due course of members of his family and others involving in deals that are taking place in this country,” said Bacchus, whose statements are now deemed defamatory.

Master Cheryl Mathurin said in a written judgement on October 6 that the defendants have no prospect of succeeding on the defences pleaded, of fair comment and qualified privilege.

She added: “These defences are incurably bad and as such the defences are struck out with costs to the claimant to be assessed upon application.”

Mathurin expressed that having examined the pleadings of Bacchus and BDS Limited, she “conclude[s] that they have no prospect of establishing that they acted in accordance with the tenets of responsible journalism or that they had a duty to broadcast to the public and that the public had an interest in receiving the broadcast in issue.”

She described the allegation against Gonsalves, his wife and the Chairman of the National Properties Ltd as “serious”. She said that the defendants presented the allegation as a fact and had no indication in their defence that any steps were taken to verify the information or comment. She added that there is no indication that even the “very obvious step to verify ownership of land by way of a search at the Land Registry” was undertaken.

Mathurin in her judgement explained that in order for a defence to be qualified privilege, they would have to establish that they acted in accordance with the tenets of journalism and had a duty to publish the words complained of.

Gonsalves filed the case after claiming that the allegations against him were defamatory. The case was filed against Bacchus and BDS Ltd on July 4, 2009.

The Master said that costs to Dr Ralph Gonsalves will be assessed upon application.

Gonsalves, on numerous occasions, has encouraged his critics to be careful when bringing his character into disrepute.

He has also warned them to leave members of his family alone.

“Don’t judge me on the basis of how you all operate, just being willy-nilly. No. I don’t own any state lands. And if I were to own any state lands, it wouldn’t be surreptitiously. It would be through proper procedure,” said Gonsalves, who has won previous defamation cases against on NICE Radio talk show hosts.