A senior police officer has been ordered to pay almost $60,000 to a sergeant for defaming him in a report in 2015.
Last week, Master Sherlanne Pierre ordered Snr Supt Neil Brandon-John, who is in charge of the Port of Spain division, to pay Sgt Ricardo Morris, a community service officer, a total of $58,630.14, which includes a 2.5 per cent rate of interest from the date of service of the claim to the date of judgment as well as prescribed costs.
Morris was represented by attorneys Lemuel Murphy and Lloyd Robinson.
Brandon-John did not appear nor was he represented by an attorney.
Since Brandon-John failed to defend the claim for libel, judgment in default was entered against him and the matter was sent to the master for assessment of damages owed to Morris.
Morris’s claim centred on a report prepared on June 16, 2015, entitled Report of Breach of Discipline.
He claimed Brandon-John made defamatory statements against him. The report detailed an incident in Sea Lots during a raid in the area and also referred to community activist Cedric Burke. Burke died in 2020 of complications related to covid19.
In his libel claim, Morris argued that the defamatory statement in the report was understood to mean that he acted improperly in the course of his duties. He said the report was circulated among members of the police service and he only discovered the statement after he was served a notice to attend a disciplinary tribunal in 2019.
Morris also faced disciplinary proceedings before the Police Service Commission, which resulted in a recommendation for his dismissal, which was never carried out.
In her reasons, Pierre said while she did not believe the statement enjoyed the wide circulation Morris claimed it had, she accepted that he did suffer personal distress.
In his claim, Morris said he suffered embarrassment and loss of reputation. He said he was mocked and publicly ridiculed. He contended the stress affected his sleep patterns, left him depressed and affected his appetite.
She further noted, “He suffered personal distress on discovering the statement and experienced feelings of shame.
“Persons involved in the disciplinary proceedings instituted against him were privy to the statement. He asked for a retraction from the defendant and none was given."
She said the case would not attract an award at the higher end of the scale.
“The claimant did not show that he suffered financial or other consequential loss as a result of the defamation. Nor was he a high-profile or public figure known to wide segments of society.”
However, she noted he had started youth clubs in an at-risk community in Port of Spain and built a reputation in the service as a noble and honest officer.