For two weeks this newspaper has been holding back articles of interest to the public—out of deference to a court injunction that prevented publication by The STAR of anything to do with the highly publicized allegations by model Vincent McDoom against the Speaker of the House, Matthew Roberts.
The injunction was delivered to Rick Wayne on Thursday, March 6 , minutes before he was scheduled to go on air with his regular DBS show TALK. The injunction was based on an article that had appeared in the March 5 issue of The STAR, wherein was detailed an account of that week’s seating of the House.
Yesterday, Justice Adrian Saunders—who had granted the injunction in the first place—was required to consider two new applications: one for the extension of the court order by Matthew Roberts and his lawyer Dexter Theodore, the other challenging the validity of the initial application. A characteristically confident Rick Wayne, dressed to the nines, walked into the courtroom accompanied by Peter Foster.
Roberts, in a duck-egg-blue shirt-jack and matching pants, had arrived a few minutes before Wayne, accompanied by Theodore. Roberts, who recently vacated the Speaker’s chair, reportedly to devote his energies to pursuing a libel case against Wayne, rushed up to the courthouse steps to avoid the press. Finally, he said he would offer no comment on the matter at hand, since he was taking his case to court. Nevertheless, he expressed disappointment with the overall press the allegations had generated.
Wayne was more to the point with his comments before the hearing. Said the publisher “Some people think they are above the rest of us. I want to prove they are not!”
Minutes before the case began, Matthew Roberts took a seat alone, to the left of the room. Wayne, on the other hand, was surrounded by well-wishers, including-19-year old Melissa Serville—the young woman who had achieved overnight fame for her Saltibus march to protest the way authorities had treated the rape murder of 13-year-old Verlinda Joseph.
“No one would be aware of what is happening in the country without the press,” she told this reporter. “As a concerned citizen, I showed up in court because of my interest in the plight of abused persons, especially children. The press is all we have between victims and official neglect.”
Theodore began his case by explaining why injunctions are granted against the publication of defamatory statements. In the particular instance, he said, when “the statement is undoubtedly defamatory, when there are no grounds for concluding the statement may be true, when there is no other defense which might succeed and when there is evidence of an intention to repeat or publish the defamatory statement” Roberts had every right to seek a court order.
At one point, having suggested that Wayne would be unable to prove allegations that Roberts had raped McDoom, Theodore said: “Rape is the carnal knowledge of a female of any age without her consent. It is a legal impossibility to rape a boy. Therefore, there can be no grounds for concluding that such a statement can ever be true.”
Theodore went on to say that justification was not an option for the defendant. “When he pleads justification, the defendant places on himself the onerous burden of proving that the defamatory imputation is true. It has been established that the defendant cannot prove that the claimant committed the offense of rape.”
A self-assured Peter Foster began his case by underscoring his client’s Constitutional right to free speech, a right he said had been denied Wayne by the injunction. That, said Foster, was “a very serious and grave matter indeed.”
He then went on to deal with the procedural requirements of obtaining an injunction without notice, and the substantive matters involved in the granting of “an injunction of this nature and the law regarding the operation of these types of injunctions.”
Foster cited several cases dating as far back as the 1800s to support his arguments. In summary, he said the injunction was improperly obtained in that there was material non-disclosure, there was acquiescence on the part of the claimant and there was no demonstrated urgency.
Said Foster: “The claimant misled the court in representing that the defendant’s solicitors were informed of the injunction without notice hearing. The claimant knew and ought to have known that the defendant would plead justification, fair comment or qualified privilege, and that if the defendant was properly informed that the claimant had intended to make this application, he would have so represented the court.”
In the end, Justice Saunders was impressed by Foster’s argument. “The courts placed a heavy premium on upholding freedom of speech. Given that there is a declaration by the defense to justify the libel, my judgment is that the injunction be lifted.”
The claimant was then ordered to pay cost of $2500 to the defendant. Damages will be decided at a later date.
As he sought to rush out of the court, Matthew Roberts was cornered by mics and [voice] recorders.
“I think the judge has made a good decision,” he said, visibly nervous. “The matter is going to court and this is not the case. This is just a matter saying that Rick Wayne is now free to speak about the issue and then we go to court.”
He added: “The judge was absolutely correct. There is an established precedent if a matter is going to court and the defendant is going to plead justification. Let him prove his justification. In other words Rick Wayne has to prove Justification.”
Ever the showbiz personality, Rick Wayne refused to talk to TV reporters until he was out of the building, “where the lighting is better.” The dark and dreary corridors of the courts just would not do for a backdrop. The press followed him down the stairs of the courthouse.
Satisfied, Wayne said: “I have always said I have great faith in the law. I have faith in the justice system. What irks me is that most people in this country do not have access to that law and justice, either because they cannot afford that justice or there is no legal aid. Or they are too uneducated even to recognize their rights.”
Wayne said this incident would not change his style of writing.
“I have never accused Matthew Roberts of anything. I have always said the unchar-acteristic silence of Matthew Roberts in this precedential matter was polluting everything in this country. I have always said that how the society, the government and the law treated the silence of Matthew Roberts on this particular issue was having an impact on the country in ways not necessarily obvious.”
Wayne maintained that his contention had never been with Matthew Roberts as an individual.
“I have never, and I still do not accuse Matthew Roberts of having committed any crime,” he said, “let alone a crime against McDoom. I have always stated that his silence was an insult to the integrity of the House, the laws and the people of this society.”
He added that this was not a personal victory but rather a victory for the press. “All we have to do is tell the truth in the public interest and do our work without any malice.”