Griffith loses defamation lawsuit against Express newspaper

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Griffith loses defamation lawsuit against Express newspaper

Former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith was not lucky before the courts yesterday, as his defamation lawsuit against the Trinidad Express and two of its journalists was rejected yesterday.

The matter stemmed from a series of reports by the newspaper on the issuing of Firearm User’s Licenses (FULs) during Griffith’s tenure.

The challenged reports alleged that Griffith granted FULs to persons who had pending charges for possession of illegal firearms and to businessmen, whose spouses had made domestic violence allegations against them.

Justice Jacqueline Wilson, during a virtual hearing on Monday, rejected Griffith’s claim in which he was alleging that the newspaper, its former investigative journalist Denyse Renne and reporter Rickie Ramdass, tarnished his professional reputation in a series of reports published in October 2020.

In her judgement, Justice Wilson ruled that the articles were in the public interest as they involved a public official exercising his official decision-making discretion.

She also stated that the reports met the criteria for responsible journalism.

Dealing specifically with Renne’s investigative reports, Justice Wilson stated that they were responsible and fair.

“The first defendant relied on information from a confidential source she believed to be true and took material steps to verify including calling the claimant for a response,” Justice Wilson said.

Griffith would be liable for the legal costs incurred by the newspaper in defending the lawsuit, however, Justice Wilson did not quantify the costs.
The newspaper’s lawyer Farees Hosein requested that the parties file written submissions on the issue.

Griffith repeatedly maintained that at the time he was not made aware of a report from a senior officer, in which he (the businessman) was refused a recommendation, and the provisional license was revoked as soon as he received it.

In her evidence, Renne maintained that she practised responsible journalism in her reports as she detailed the investigations she undertook into the information she claimed she received from confidential sources in the TTPS.