Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Money no solace - Court awards Bain $4m, but says fired UWI prof was not defamed

Published:Tuesday | August 1, 2017 | 8:00 AMLivern Barrett
Professor Brendan Bain

Professor Brendan Bain has described as "very sad" the long legal fight he and his "beloved" University of the West Indies (UWI) had to endure over his dismissal as director of its Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network.

The respected academic reacted yesterday moments after the Jamaican Full Court ruled that the dismissal was a breach of his constitutional right to freedom of expression, but found that the university did not defame him when it posted a statement on its website about the reasons for the termination.

The court also ordered UWI to pay Bain $4.2 million for its failure to give him the required three months notice of his termination and "any sums that may have been withheld due to the assertion that there had been an overpayment".

Bain told The Gleaner he needed time to study the ruling, but said he was relieved that the legal wrangling was over and declared his love for the institution that he said helped to shape his development.

"I want to express great sadness that this ever happened, because that university is the place that nurtured me. I am very sad that this happened and that we all had to go through this trial," he said.

The ruling comes a year and a half after Bain sued the university for $40 million in damages for defamation, arising from the May 2014 termination of his two-year contract. He was fired on the grounds that his

constituents had lost confidence in him after he gave an expert report in a court in Belize.

The report was requested by a Belizean church group that was opposed to a case brought by a gay man who was seeking to challenge the country's buggery law.

The academic charged that his contract was terminated because of the report, which was not in favour of the gay man.

His dismissal triggered days of protest by a wide cross section of Jamaicans as well as civil-society groups who argued that he was being unfairly treated.

 

TO DECIDE ON NEXT MOVE

 

Bain went to court seeking compensation for breach of contract, as well as damages for defamation, after the university posted a statement about his dismissal on its website.

Kristen Fletcher, one of the attorneys who represented Bain, said the court found that the words contained in the statement were not defamatory, "and it was on that basis that damages were not awarded for defamation".

Fletcher sidestepped questions about whether her client was disappointed with this aspect of the court decision, but said they were reviewing the document to decide on the next move.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com