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Court awards Dr. Ralph Gonsalves over $400,000

Court awards Dr. Ralph Gonsalves over $400,000

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Radio firebrand Elwardo Lynch and the parent company for Nice Radio, BDS Limited, have been ordered to pay Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves a total of EC$430,000 in damages and costs, but exclusive of interest, for defaming his character.{{more}}

Master Cheryl Mathurin handed down the judgement in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court on Thursday, November 26, 2008.

The judgement comes six years after Prime Minister Gonsalves sued Lynch and BDS Limited for comments deemed defamatory that were published live on Nice Radio, where Lynch hosts the ‘New Times’ programme – a political programme put on every week day by the Opposition New Democratic Party.

The Court ruled that Lynch and BDS Limited will each pay Dr. Gonsalves damages in the sum of EC$160,000; they will also each pay EC$33,000 for the Prime Minister’s costs in the High Court; EC$22,000 each for his costs in the Appeal Court; along with interest of 3 per cent on the total sum of EC$160, 000 from the service of the writ to May 25th, 2005, when judgement was delivered, and thereafter interest be paid on the total judgement sum of EC$215,000 at the statutory rate of 5 per cent until liquidated.

The saga began in July 2002, following the Prime Minister’s much publicised visit to Rome to have an audience with the late Pope John Paul II. He was accompanied by his wife Eloise, his mother Theresa and daughter Isis. The Prime Minister was accused of abusing his power by using government or consolidated funds to pay travel and or accommodation costs for his mother and daughter.

In a live broadcast in August 2002, Dr.Gonsalves refuted the claims by producing evidence that he had used his own money to pay the travel expenses.

“I have had to wait six years, six long years to be vindicated,” said the elated Prime Minister in an interview with the media shortly after he heard the judgement.

Dr.Gonsalves said he hopes this is going to be a lesson to those who abuse freedom of speech for a political purpose to malign others.

He vowed to keep his promise to donate his award to charity.

“I had said from the beginning that this money will go to charity. I will select the charities of my own choice in consultation with people in my constituency and my friends and supporters,” said Dr. Gonsalves.

Dr.Gonsalves said he had always been convinced that he could not lose this case.

“Don’t run a campaign against me based on lies and falsehoods which damage my character. I will take action,” the Prime Minister warned.

He said had the defendants issued an apology when he requested one, he “would have said to them pay something to a charity of my own choosing and it certainly would have been nothing near that sum”.

At press time Wednesday, when SEARCHLIGHT contacted Lynch for a response to the judgement, he advised us to check with his Lawyers. He, however, noted that the order had been postponed for clarification on some discrepancies.

SEARCHLIGHT was unable to reach Lynch’s Lawyer, Stanley ‘Stalky’ John, for a comment, but was able to contact Mira Commissiong, Laywer for BDS Limited.

She said that in the past she never gave a reaction on the matter and didn’t see the need to give one now. Commissiong also mentioned that there were some errors in the order that needed to be clarified.

The Master in the order expressed disappointment with the conduct and behaviour of the defendants’ Lawyers.

“I must express difficulty and disappointment in accepting that Counsel for the Defendants, in the face of that olive branch that would ensue to their clients’ benefit, could not have constructed and obviously did not construct a suitable apology at that time or at all,” Mathurin outlined.

The Master stated that it is settled law that a proper apology or the offer of such an apology can significantly mitigate damages.

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