Tue | Jan 28, 2020

Court awards PNP councillors $23m - RJRGLEANER to appeal ruling in malicious prosecution, defamation suits

Published:Saturday | December 14, 2019 | 12:10 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Supporters hoist Councillor Michael Troupe after he was freed of gun and ammunition charges.
Supporters hoist Councillor Michael Troupe after he was freed of gun and ammunition charges.

The RJRGLEANER Group has vowed to appeal a Supreme Court award of $19.5 million in damages to People’s National Party councillors Michael Troupe and Sylvan Reid who had filed separate suits for defamation, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution against the Government, Television Jamaica and another media house seven years ago.

Television Jamaica is an arm of the RJRGLEANER Group.

“The company states emphatically that our newsroom reported faithfully and accurately the information provided by an authoritative source, the police, and also as the events unfolded,” a statement issued yesterday evening said.

“We fulfilled the key journalistic principles and, on that basis, we must appeal the judgment,” it continued.

Troupe, councillor for the Granville division in St James, was awarded $11 million in damages for defamation, while Reid, from the Salt Spring division in the parish, will receive $8.5 million in damages for defamation. Reid was awarded a further $1.05 million and $2.45 million with interest for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, respectively.

In the lawsuits filed in November 2012 and June 2013 against the attorney general, then Police Commissioner Owen Ellington; Senior Superintendent of Police Leon Clunis, then head of the Anti-Lottery Scam Task Force; and Television Jamaica and CVM Television, the men claimed that they were “falsely and maliciously arrested”.

They also claimed that certain untrue words were spoken by the superintendent and the police commissioner, which were broadcast by both free-to-air television stations.

MORNING RAIDS

The men’s lawsuits stem from their arrests on the morning of July 18, 2012. On the day in question, the task force, led by Clunis, raided Troupe’s Granville home. Reid was also arrested in one of several simultaneous raids across several St James communities.

In the judgment handed down this week, Supreme Court Justice Audre Lindo concluded that the Government, Television Jamaica, and CVM TV “failed to show any justification for the words spoken or broadcast”, nor shown that “the words complained of were fair comments on a matter of public interest”.

She further said: “The statement was not based on correct facts and the [media houses] have failed in their duty to verify the authenticity of the information stated in their broadcast.”

Justice Lindo also concluded that Reid made out his claim against the Government for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

However, she ruled against Troupe in relation to his claim for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, ordering him to pay the State.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com