Imbert awarded $500k in damages from Express newspaper

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Imbert awarded $500k in damages from Express newspaper

A judge has awarded Finance Minister Colm Imbert $500,00 in damages, after he won a defamation claim against the Trinidad Express newspaper.

Justice Ricky Rahim made the order yesterday, (Wednesday, 6 March) after finding the paper was reckless when it published a story on November 6, 2016.

The Sunday Express article concerned payments by the Housing Development Company for consultancy services to Bolt Trinidad, a company owned by Imbert’s wife.

Rahim said, “The court is of the view that at the lowest, the defendants were reckless as to whether the information provided by the source was true in relation to the specific allegation against the claimant, that they had the opportunity to confirm and verify the facts but chose so not to do so that they could publish the article to the Sunday readership which would ordinarily carry an increased economic benefit to the paper. Such actions are inimical to the common good in a democratic society and goes against the grain of fairness.

“It evokes a sense of public outrage in the mind of the reasonable and law-abiding person.”

The judge stated that from the evidence, Singh did not receive any supporting documents, did not seek comment from Imbert, failed to verify the information from her source and intentionally gave insufficient time to the HDC to respond to the allegation.

He added, “The actions of the defendants were in the court’s view at the highest, high-handed and intentional.

“In that regard, the court has drawn the inference that they were bent on embarrassing the claimant regardless of where the truth lay.

“The actions of the defendants may, therefore, be viewed as calculating and deceptive.

“This deception even found its way into the evidence given by the defendants…on the existence of relevant documents, texts and e-mails, appeared to the court to be made up for the purpose of defending the case.”

Rahim also noted the article set out what were “clearly untruths” relating to Imbert.

He was also critical of the front-page photograph of the Imberts used for the story.

“The imagery would have connected the dots in the mind of the reader once the article was read.

“The combination of headlines, photos and the article was saying, ‘Look here, the husband of the lady who owns Bolt’…”

He added, “In that regard, the article takes the proverbial horse (the reader) to the trough and bends his head so that lips touch the water as if it were leaving only the act of drinking up to the reader.

“Objectively, such an assertion was bound to lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally.

“The public expects that political office-holders, who are entrusted with the care and control of the patrimony of the nation and who are democratically elected, would at all times do that which is in the beneficial interest of the public they serve and in so doing be fair and just.

“In this case, the contents of the article had suggested just the opposite.

“In that regard, context is of extreme importance.”

Rahim said the allegation against the minister was “damning and a serious one and was bound to affect the minister. ”

Imbert was represented by Michael Quamina, SC. Farees Hosein represented the Trinidad Express and Singh.