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High Court strikes out Magistrate Moore’s $50M defamation lawsuit against DPP

High Court strikes out Magistrate Moore's $50M defamation lawsuit against DPP

Senior Magistrate Alex Moore and Director of Public Prosecution Shalimar Ali-Hack

High Court Judge Navindra Singh on Wednesday struck out a $50 million defamation lawsuit filed against Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Senior Counsel Shalimar Ali-Hack by Senior Magistrate Alex Moore. In a Statement of Claim filed in July 2020, Magistrate Moore, a practising Attorney-at-Law for 14 years, asked the court to award him millions in damages for defamation of character. The 42-year-old Magistrate alleged that he was defamed in a letter penned by the DPP to Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Chief Justice Roxane George.

The letter was dated December 5, 2019, “Re: Conduct of Magistrate Alex Moore in the charge of the Police vs Marcus Bisram for the offence of murder, Contrary to Common Law”. According to Moore, the letter was falsely and maliciously written by the DPP. Moore said that the letter suggested that he was not acting impartially in the matter, and, was, therefore unfit to sit as a Magistrate in a murder Preliminary Inquiry against Marcus Bisram by the State, for which proceedings were being conducted at the Whim Magistrate’s Court.

Magistrate Moore, through his lawyer, Arudranauth Gosai, noted that the contents of the letter have greatly injured his character, credibility and has caused him embarrassment and depression. In August 2020, the DPP filed an application asking for the lawsuit to be struck out on the basis that it was frivolous, vexatious, an abuse of the court process and disclosed no reasonable cause for bringing the claim.

Ali-Hack also took issue with Magistrate Moore suing her in her personal capacity, instead of in her official office as Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP submitted that her letter refers to her acting in her professional capacity as Director of Public Prosecutions, and not in her personal capacity. She contended that the lawsuit against her in her personal capacity was procedurally incorrect as she is protected under the  laws of Guyana in the execution of the functions of her office as a public officer.

Ali-Hack contended that Magistrate Moore’s case was contrary to public policy by seeking through defamatory claims to intimidate or prevent the process of complaints against the conduct of Magistrates.  She said this was particularly in relation to disciplinary considerations by members of the Judicial Service Commission of the actions of any member of the Magistracy, including Magistrate Moore.

In his judgment, Justice Singh held that the lawsuit was in breach of Section 8 (1) of the Justice Protection Act as it was instituted more than seven months after Magistrate Moore became aware of the letter. The Judge noted that the lawsuit was also in breach of Section 8 (2) of the Justice Protection Act as Magistrate Moore failed to give the DPP notice in writing of his intention to institute the claim. Justice Singh held that the DPP, who was sued in her personal capacity, was improperly named as a party since she is also protected under the State Liability and Proceeding Act and the Justice Protection Act.

The Judge underscored that when the DPP wrote the letter to the Chancellor and Chief Justice, also in their official capacity, she was acting in her official capacity as Director of Public Prosecutions, seeking to invoke Section 12 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Magistrate) Act. Justice Singh also disagreed with Magistrate Moore’s contention that the determination of whether the letter is subject to absolute privilege is a matter of fact that can only be determined at trial.

Magistrate Moore was ordered to pay the DPP $200,000 in court costs by December 24, 2020. The DPP was represented by Senior Counsel Robin Stoby, Senior Counsel Jamela Ali and Attorney-at-Law Kim Kyte-Thomas. Magistrate Moore has been a sitting Magistrate for more than nine years. He has been assigned to Georgetown,Berbice East Demerara, and Corentyne Magisterial districts.

Apart from that, he was admitted to practise law in the courts of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and the British Virgin Islands where he practised before being elevated to a Magistrate.