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Finda Koroma vs Philip Neville & co: Thirty Million damages awarded to complainant

 

C.C. 213/10             2010              K          No.34

IN THE HIGH COURT OF SIERRA LEONE

GENERAL CIVIL DIVISION

BETWEEN:

FINDA KOROMA   –           PLAINTIFF

 

AND

 

PHILIP NEVILLE     –        1ST DEFENDANT

I B M KAMARA          –       2ND DEFENDANT

 BERTHAN MACAULAY JNR for Plaintiff

LEON JENKINS-JOHNSTON ESQ for Defendants

 BEFORE THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE N C BROWNE-MARKE JUSTICE OF APPEAL

DATED THE 23 DAY OF OCTOBER, 2013

DAMAGES

On Monday last, the 21st instant, I gave Judgment for the Plaintiff in the action herein, and invited Counsel on both sides to address the Court on the quantum of Damages to be awarded the successful Plaintiff.

  1. Mr. Ernest Beoku-Betts, Counsel for the Plaintiff submitted that the quantum, based on the principles applicable to cases of this nature, must be substantial.  He submitted also, that in this respect, the sum of Le 300million would approximate, and would provide adequate compensation to the Plaintiff for the injury to her character and reputation, she had suffered as result of the Libelous publication.  Mr. Leon Jenkins-Johnston asked for time in order to formulate his submissions. I agreed to this and adjourned the hearing to yesterday, the 22nd instant.
  2. Later that same day, i.e. Monday the 21st instant, Mr. Beoku-Betts submitted relevant authorities on this aspect of the case.  Mr. Jenkins-Johnston submitted none.
  3. Yesterday, the 22nd instant, Mr. Jenkins-Johnston addressed me briefly on the method to be used in assessing Damages.  Much of what he said amounted to a rehashing of the Defence filed on behalf of the Defendants.  Of note, is that he submitted that the fact that the Libel had been published only once, and had not since the date of that publication, been repeated.  He submitted also the finding made against the Defendants was of itself, sufficient to clear the good name of the Plaintiff.  He did not cite any legal authorities in support of his plea for leniency.
  4. In cases of defamation of character, as it is stated in GATLEY ON LIBEL AND SLANDER, 11th Edition, the law presumes that some damage will flow in the ordinary course of things from the mere invasion of the Plaintiff’s absolute right to reputation.  There is no obligation on the Plaintiff to show that she has suffered actual damage.  The law assumes she must have suffered damage, and that she is entitled to substantial Damages.  The Court should take into account the extent of the publication and the manner in which the case for the Defendants has been conducted.  As to the first aspect, the newspaper is published on the internet, which means that it was accessible worldwide.  As to the second aspect, I note that the Defendants were not present in Court during much of the Interlocutory proceedings, which carried on over a nearly two year period between 2010 and 2012, and at the trial itself; and even yesterday, when Counsel were supposed to address me on this all important issue of the quantum of Damages.  This may be an indication that the Defendants have very little regard for the Court, and for its processes.
  5. Taking all these matters into consideration, I am of the view that the Plaintiff ought to be adequately compensated for the injury she has suffered as a result of the Defendants’ defamatory publication. She has held very high positions, demanding high levels of integrity and probity in more than one country.  According to her, she has been well remunerated for the work she has done, and from what I read in her witness statement, she is not a person without substantial means at her disposal.  Ordering the Defendants to pay her a huge sum of money would not therefore, in my view, necessarily improve her standard of living; nor, would it constitute sufficient reparation for the damage she has suffered.  Substantial Damages, though they would perhaps penalize the Defendants in a large way, would not, in my view, based on the evidence led at the trial, mean much to a lady who has commanded the sort of remuneration she has adumbrated in her witness statement.
  6. The Damages awarded should be such as would ensure that her name is cleared worldwide, and not just in Sierra Leone, and not just in the local currency, Leones.
  7. The Damages awarded the Plaintiff would be as follows:
    1. The Defendants shall jointly and severally pay for the Judgment he rein, including this Judgment on Damages, to be printed in full in at least 10 newspapers (including the Standard Times) published and sold in Sierra Leone within 7 days of the date of this Judgment.
    2. Likewise, the Defendants shall undergo the cost of this Judgment being printed in full, online, in the following online newspapers: All Africa.Com, Awareness Times, Awoko, Cocorioko, Patriotic Vanguard, New Citizen, Sierra News Express, and the Standard Times itself.  This too, should be done within 7 days of the date of this Judgment.
    3. The Defendants shall publish in the very next edition of the Standard Times Newspaper, a full and unqualified apology to the Plaintiff.
    4. If the Defendants fail to comply with the Orders made above within the time stated, they shall be liable to be Committed for Contempt by this Court.
    5. The Defendants shall, jointly and severally pay to the Plaintiff Damages in the sum of Le30 million

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE N C BROWNE-MARKE

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