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ROUND ONE FOR HILAIRE – Defamation Case Involving Prime Minister and Opposition MP

Image of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet & MP Ernest Hilaire

The defamation proceedings in the court case involving Opposition parliamentarian Ernest Hilaire and Prime Minister Allen Chastanet took a rather interesting turn when an interlocutory application by Chastanet was dismissed by High Court Judge Godfrey P. Smith.

The judgment, which was handed down on Thursday, seemed to have gone the way of Hilaire.

Image of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet & MP Ernest Hilaire
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet & MP Ernest Hilaire

Prime Minister Chastanet, in the application, sought that the court to have Hilaire’s statement of claim struck out, to rule that the words complained were not defamatory of Hilaire and not capable of bearing the meaning attributed to them.

Chastanet also asked that Hilaire’s claim be summarily dismissed pursuant to Section 8 of the United Kingdom Defamation Act of 2013; that Chastanet be given leave to further amend the amended defense and file further witness statements; case management timelines be extended and that there be specific disclosure and that Hilaire admit certain facts.

Hilaire also applied to the court to strike out Chastanet’s defence on the basis that it discloses no reasonable defense to the claim as the defense is predicated on the UK Defamation 2013 Act, which has no application to Saint Lucia in view of articles 2123.1, 989E to 989S and Parts I and II of the Civil Code of Saint Lucia.

Appearing on behalf of Hilaire were Anthony Astaphan SC, Peter Foster QC, Thaddeus Antoine, Renee St. Rose and Ann-Alicia Fagan, while Garth Patterson QC and Mark Maragh appeared on behalf of Chastanet.

According to court documents at the hearing of the applications, both  Patterson and Astaphan agreed that the issue as to the applicability of the UK Defamation 2013 Act and should be taken separately since the viability of each party’s pleadings rested on the outcome of that issue.

The Court therefore heard extensive arguments on the applicability of the 2013 Act.

Justice Smith, in his verdict, said he was “obliged to overrule the defendant’s preliminary objection” and on the issue of the applicability of the UK Act concluded that the 2013 Act is not applicable to Saint Lucia.

“That part of the defendant’s (Chastanet’s) application seeking to strike out the claimant’s (Hilaire’s) claim is therefore dismissed,” Justice Smith stated in his judgement outlining the reasons why he arrived at that conclusion.

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