Former worshipper to pay damages to T&T church

Saturday, October 06, 2018

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — A High Court has ordered a former follower of a church here to pay TT$250,000 (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) in compensation, after she posted defamatory messages on various social media platforms as well as in television and weekly newspaper publications.

High Court Master Martha Alexander ordered Sapphire Carter to compensate Prophetic Missions International for injury to its reputation and financial prospects.

Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell last year ruled in favour of the church and ordered compensation to be assessed by a High Court master.

The defamatory statements were made on social media, in weekly newspaper publications, and on a television station starting in 2015, when Carter left the church.

In awarding the compensation the High Court Master said users of social media platforms “must be responsible for the carnage created by their defamatory postings.

Facebook's fangs possessed an infinite reach. Its capacity for multiple repostings, sharing and commenting by users and the likely irreparable damage would possibly never be discoverable or understandable.”

She said also that users of social media platforms must recognise that they must be responsible and respectful of the reputations of others in society, or their actions would be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

In addition to making the accusations against the church, the court heard Carter also made several allegations against its leader, Dr Leslie Rogers, which led to him and his family being ostracised.

Alexander said the court accepted that there was clear proof of multiple libellous postings on social, in print and televised media, and the evidence stood unchallenged by Carter.

The court found that regarding the postings on Facebook and YouTube, they were massive in number and widespread in their coverage, “profoundly wounding” the church, and were aimed at injuring its reputation and inflicting maximum damage.

“Attempts to contain or stop the postings were ignored with impunity and the relentlessness of the attacks were only halted by contempt of court proceedings.”

The High Court master said that the compensation awarded “might not be able to bleach away the stains caused by this defamation, or even wipe out the memory of what was done here, but it would in some way serve as a balm for the injury”.

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