Radio personality Dwight “Bing” Joseph will not apologise or pay EC$250,000 to opposition politician Ben Exeter for statements Joseph made about Exeter on his radio show.
“Our client denies that the words you have attributed to him are slanderous of your client,” Joseph’s lawyer, Grahame Bollers, said in an April 4 letter to Israel Bruce, Exeter’s attorney.
In a March 29 letter, Bruce had claimed that Exeter was defamed when Joseph said Exeter had a certain number of bullets on him when he was arrested in Kingstown on Dec. 29.
Exeter, who had a licensed firearm, was arrested and charged for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
He was charged almost three weeks later with an offence relating to taking the licensed firearm to a public meeting.
His trial was due for Monday, but has been postponed to May 31.
Bollers admitted in his letter that joseph quoted an incorrect number of bullets, but said “a mere numerical dispute as to the number of bullets that he had in his possession does not in law constitute a defamatory statement.
“Additionally, the ordinary and natural meaning of the words used does not impute an allegation of criminality against your client.”
Bollers said that Exeter’s arrest was widely reported and discussed in the media and was a matter of public interest.
“Your allegation that the statement that you have attributed to our client was designed to further impact the present criminal proceedings against your client is a figment of your and your client’s fertile imagination.
“Your client is a politician and he should appreciate that as a public figure he is open to uninhibited public criticism,” Bollers wrote.
He further quoted a case in which the court stated, “The limits of acceptable criticism are wider with regard to a politician in his public capacity than in relation to a private individual. A politician knowingly and inevitably lays himself open to close scrutiny of his every word and deed … and must display a greater sense of tolerance.”
Bollers said Joseph has “a basic fundamental human right to freely express his opinions” regarding Exeter’s “suitability or unsuitability to run for public office”.
Bruce had demanded a similar apology and payment of EC$250,000 by Boom FM, the station on which Joseph made his comments.