That’s the figure awarded to Grenadian-born agriculture economist, Dr. Patrick Antoine by a high court judge who ruled in his favour in a defamation case.
The judgment was handed down on February 24th by Justice Andre Mon Desir a non-resident judge who presided over the lawsuit that was filed in 2009 following a column written by former Attorney General and newspaper columnist, Lloyd Noel.
The article, which appeared in the now defunct GRENADA TODAY newspaper and other online publications, was related to the role of Dr. Antoine in the Lewis Hamilton land deal involving the purported sale of the Grenada Grand Beach Resort, now known as Radisson Grand Beach Resort.
Dr. Antoine felt like the article was a personal attack on him on the grounds that there was no truth to the information disseminated.
He secured the services of QC, Dr. Richard Cheltenham of Barbados to file a lawsuit against Noel and the then GRENADA TODAY newspaper.
Contrary to reports from another local entity, GBN, the lawsuit was not brought against George Worme, the former Editor of GRENADA TODAYnewspaper.
Worme appeared in the case to give evidence as a witness and not a defendant.
During a press briefing on Monday, Dr. Antoine and female attorney, Denise Burris of the law firm, Daniel Williams and Company fielded questions from local journalists at the Grenada Trade Centre Annex.
According to Burris, the article did damage to Dr. Antoine’s reputation and he had to be vindicated.
“Given a full exposition of the fact and the way in which the article would have damaged Dr. Antoine’s reputation, Justice Mon Desir felt that the article did refer to Dr Antoine, that the statements were defamatory and that the publishers were reckless in their regard in not verifying facts which were ascertainable at the time that the article was written and hence it warranted damages, general damages, as well as aggravated damages as well as exemplary damages,” she said.
Burris stated that since the GRENADA TODAY is no longer in existence, if there is no asset of the company to attach the judgment then Noel will be responsible for the judgment in its entirety.
Dr. Antoine told reporters that the article constituted an unwarranted attack on his personal integrity and professional reputation.
“It is an interesting aspect of this case, that the judge considered that the defamation was persistent because the article is permanently accessible on the Internet and re-emerges in my professional life for which I’ve had to explain and defend this travesty, this ordeal from time to time”, he said.
“…This is a fitting judgment to what has been a very unfortunate set of circumstances which has damaged my reputation and the judgment is one step in addressing or undoing that damage,” he added.
Dr. Antoine stated that the article also took a toll especially on his son and mother and it was something that he would not be able to forget.
He said that his son was a minor at the time and believed that what was written in the article was “automatically true” about his father.
“…I had to explain to him (my son) far-flung concepts of libel and defamation. I had to work with him to shield his pain and to shield him from the taunts of classmates about wanting some of the money that his daddy was supposed to have gotten.
“…The pain this has caused my mother who now has Alzheimer is not one that I will soon forget. My mother carried the sure conviction in her heart that I would not have done anything wrong but was (troubled) by the fact that in her latter years, she would have to see her son suffer and endure the embarrassment and hurt that these unwarranted allegations would have triggered.
Dr. Antoine noted that Justice Mon Desir in handing down his judgment indicated that “neither the author nor editor has offered an apology” in the matter.
However, THE NEW TODAY can refer to an article that was published in both the defunct GRENADA TODAY and on Caribbean Net News in October 2008 by Lloyd Noel where he apologised for any offence taken as a result of the article.
“Inaccuracies, genuine mistakes, and misinformation, will occur in all walks of life, because we are human beings”, Noel said in the column eight years ago.
Noel also wrote the following words back then: “..Wherever these (inaccuracies) have occurred, or even perceived so to be. In my article on the Grand Beach Resort freehold land sale, I readily withdraw them and sincerely apologise to those who felt offended, in particular Dr. Antoine and Mr. Lewis Hamilton.
“And I reassure them, without any reservation that all I set out to do in the public interest, was to inform John Public of a transaction in his name that was not in the face of the document on all fours with the legal.
In addition to the half-a-million dollar award of damages, the judgment also indicated that the defendants pay the legal fees of Dr. Antoine.
The defendants who were represented by Attorney-at-Law, Anselm Clouden have 42 days to appeal the judgment by Justice Mon Desir.
Clouden has already indicated that he would be putting together a team of lawyers to challenge the award which he described as “too high” and “outrageous” given the recent awards by the OECS courts in defamation matters.