Shaun Malcolm again in discussions with his letter.The guy is champion in TCI with his letters to UK Government before and during UK Commission of Inquiry and Interim Government in Turks and Caicos Islands since 2009
Ashcroft case ‘a threat to free speech’ court told sues Independent for ‘defamation’
A “fundamental bulwark” of free speech could be lost if The Independent is denied the right to defend its decision to publish extracts from a letter written by a Turks and Caicos politician alleging that Lord Ashcroft posed a threat to democracy on the islands, a court was told yesterday.
The Tory peer is seeking damages from Independent News and Media (INM), former owners of The Independent, over articles published in November 2009, one of which quoted from a letter to David Cameron from an opposition Turks and Caicos politician, Shaun Malcolm. The letter pleaded that if the Conservatives came to power, they should not allow Lord Ashcroft to influence British policy on the islands, which have been under direct rule by the Foreign Office because of corruption in the government of the former Prime Minister, Michael Misick.
Lord Ashcroft worked for many years with William Hague, and bankrolled the Conservative Party while Mr Hague was party leader. The Independent alleged that he profited from a short-lived construction boom on Turks and Caicos, fuelled by the corrupt sale of crown land, the court heard. Mr Malcolm alleged in his letter that Lord Ashcroft’s wealth gave him influence which “we feel puts any hope of democracy at risk,” the court heard.
David Price QC, for INM, argued that this was comment, and in law even a ” whacky opinion” can be justified if it has any basis in fact. An appeal court has spent two days listening to arguments over what grounds the newspaper company can use to defend the case. Mark Warby QC, for Lord Ashcroft, claimed the allegations against the Tory peer were so “garbled and unclear” that it would be unfair to expect him to answer them. This argument has been upheld by Britain’s most senior libel judge, Mr Justice Eady, who said Mr Malcolm’s claim that Lord Ashcroft exercised a “level of influence” was a “defamatory comment” lacking “a factual basis”.
Mr Warby added that INM’s legal team had repeatedly gone back to Justice Eady with amendments to their case, but had failed to persuade him to lift the order.
The court reserved its judgement.
The Independent 03.02.2012