Former Bishops’ High School teacher Coen Jackson has successfully sued writer Ruel Johnson over statements he published about him on Facebook. In a judgement delivered on Friday, High Court Judge Navindra Singh ordered Johnson to pay Jackson $5 million in damages as well as $1 million in costs.
In a Statement of Claim filed on March 5, 2019, Jackson, through his Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes complained that Johnson made several statements about him on the social media platform that were false and derogatory.
Having defamed Jackson, Justice Singh found that Johnson’s publications clearly attacked Jackson “labelling him as a pedophile who actively pursued children to satisfy this sexual perversion, which is criminal conduct, without setting out, factually, any conduct of the [Jackson] that justifies such a comment,” a direct comment from Justice Singh’s ruling reads.
The fact that Johnson accused Jackson of being a “pedophile” while he was serving as a high school teacher made the libel very grave, the Judge held.
Justice Singh said the nature of the libel was bound to cause distress, hurt, and humiliation to Jackson since it was published on Johnson’s Facebook page, which at the time, had about 5000 followers. The High Court Judge noted, “It is also a well-established and accepted fact that material published on the world wide web is available for public consumption for eternity.”
Justice Singh noted that Johnson insisted on asserting the truth of the libel by persistence in the defence of justification despite there being no factual basis for such a defence. Justice Singh added that Johnson has not apologised or expressed any regret of the publication of the libelous statements.
In the circumstances, the Judge found that Jackson was defamed and awarded him damages to the tune of $5 million. He also awarded interest on the award at a rate of six per cent from March 5, 2019, to Friday, November 19, 2021, and at four per cent thereafter until the sum is fully paid. Johnson, who was represented by Attorney-at-Law Ganesh Hira, has to pay the costs on or before January 7, 2022.
In March 2018, Jackson was charged with sexual activity with a child. It is alleged that between December 2010 and May 2011, he engaged in sexual activity with a child under the age of 16.
In May of that same year, he was committed to stand trial for the offence after a Magistrate at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts ruled that a prima facie case was established against him.
Jackson has since been released on $300,000 bail pending the hearing and determination of his trial. He is among several rape accused persons waiting to be tried at the High Court in Demerara.