Motion Filed to Contest Defamation Laws

By Elesha George

A motion has been filed in the High Court of Justice to seek clarification on two concurrent pieces of legislation that speak to the conduct of members and officers of both Houses of Parliament and of other persons concerned in the business of Parliament or its committees.

On Monday, October 7th, 2019, Attorney Charlesworth Tabor filed the motion to contest inconsistencies between sections 2 and 58 (1) of the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution 1981, Cap. 23 of the laws of the state and section 24 (2) (i) of the Defamation Act of 2015.

The Constitution, which is the principal law of Antigua and Barbuda, unlike the Defamation Act, provides immunity only during parliamentary proceedings.

The claimant’s affidavit noted, “Section 58 (1) of the Constitution provides immunity to Parliamentarians from civil or criminal proceedings for their speech in Parliament during proceedings in parliament; section 24 (2) (i) of the Defamation Act 2015 on the other hand provides absolute immunity to Parliamentarians for their speech once in the building of parliament, whether there are proceedings in parliament or not”.

The civil case is between the former opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) Member of Parliament for the St Phillips South constituency, Willmoth Daniel and the Attorney General’s Chambers.

Attorney Tabor, who represented Daniel in a lawsuit initially brought against Prime Minister Gaston Browne on January 2nd, 2018, said the results of the motion could determine whether a case can still be brought against the prime minister for defamation.

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