Hulse’s Comments: Libel or Slander?

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Updated: June 23, 2015

As soon as word got out that the Melvin Hulse recording was making the media rounds, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, acted quickly by sending out a press release in which he made it quite clear that quote, “no one should feel free to repeat Hulse’s libel just because it originated with a UDP candidate. Some have already done so, as I understand, and they too will have to face the legal consequences. I will do all that is necessary to guard the good reputation that I have gathered over the long years I have been in politics and public life”, end of quote. Barrow has stated that he plans to sue Plus TV and Vibes Radio for libel, for airing the recording but according to Attorney Audrey Matura Shepherd, Prime Minister Dean Barrow is wrong, technically.

AUDREY MATURA-SHEPHERD

“It all comes under one big heading “defamation” but in our Common Law System, which is what we still follow, there is a distinction between what is a libel and what is slander. Libel is written and slander is what is spoken. The jury is still out whether a recording is actually something permanent in terms of the definition of what is libel; so, I would say that one of the things for sure is that the Prime Minister or anyone who is not pleased with what Mr. Hulse has said cannot outright and say it’s libel, they would have to go, because it is spoken word, that it’s slander. Libel is for newspapers and also what needs to be understood is that when you make a statment about a person there are two things you have to consider that would be your defense, truth or fair comment. Truth usually saves you. If what was said and you repeated can be proven to be true then there is no claim against you. Clearly a lot of the things that Mr.Hulse has said are true, you can prove it you have seen it, it’s like for example it is true that Ivan Ramos announced that he is leaving the PUP simultaneously when the Prime Minister announced it at Darrell Bradley’s convention and you have to think beyond that. How is it possible that Dean Oliver Barrow would know before the PUPs even the executive of this man that he is going to resign and confidently announce it simultaneously. So that is truth he can’t sue anybody for that. Now the allegations and I have to say allegations made specifically about Mr.Mahmud and it involves not only Mr.Mahmud it means money, clearly somebody else that can be a minor now that is serious unless you can prove it something like that you wouldn’t say. However if there is allegation that involves the use of public funds remember I said there are two things that can be your defense the second thing could be fair comment and fair comment always revolves around something of public interest. So maybe you would not be able to repeat everything was said on that recording but you’d be able to comment to it in the context of if what Mr.Hulse was saying, because he at some point said “everything that comes down to your money” meaning your money us the people’s money and clearly Petro Caribe is mentioned there then you have a right because that’s  public funds for which the government has to be accountable. So you can make fair comments it’s called.”