Judge awards damages

National, Normal

The National, Friday February 21st, 2014

 A NATIONAL Court has awarded Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika more than K450,000 in damages and interests in a default judgment against The National for an article published more than seven years ago.

Using an Australian case as a guide, Justice Catherine Davani awarded Justice Salika K250,000 in damages, K50,000 in aggravated damages and interest.

In his claim filed in 2007, Justice Salika, who was then a National Court judge, said the article had destroyed his reputation and he felt hurt and humiliated.

Salika named Pacific Star Ltd (the publishers of The National) as first defendant, former acting editor-in-chief Daniel Korimbao as second defendant and former court reporter, Harlyne Joku third defendant.

The article, headlined “Custody hearing denied, says mum” and published on Nov 24, 2006, alleged that Justice Salika had intentionally delayed the hearing of a child custody case when he was in fact not presiding over it.

Justice Salika said he spoke to Joku who admitted that she did not check the mother’s claims before submitting her article to the paper’s editors.

In her judgment, Justice Davani said the defendant did not publish an apology or make any effort to retract the article.

Counsel, however, had argued that when his client received a notice from Justice Salika’s lawyers on Dec 20, 2006, his client drafted an apology on the same day for the plaintiff to consider.

Justice Salika’s lawyers acknowledged the “prompt response” and said they would seek instructions from their client and revert. 

The National, however, did not get any response and subsequently learnt that a default judgment had been entered.

The National appealed but failed to get the judgment set aside.

Justice Davani said the article had caused Justice Salika to suffer and that he was therefore entitled to damages.

She noted that while Justice Salika was subsequently elevated to the position of deputy chief justice, “damage to reputation does not have a market value”.

It is believed that the highest amount ever awarded for defamation was about K150,000.