Crown witness plans criminal complaint

A key witness in the upcoming criminal trial of former Cayman Islands MLA Lyndon Martin has informed police of his intention to file a criminal complaint against a local newspaper.

John Evans, a former employee of Cayman Net News, has accused the paper of publishing defamatory material about him on four separate occasions.

Mr. Evans previously told the Caymanian Compass that he entered Net News publisher Desmond Seales’ office on 3 September, 2007. The entry has been described as ‘unauthorised,’ but officers from the UK Metropolitan Police who are investigating the events which led to the entry have said Mr. Evans is not under investigation and that they have no intention of charging him with any crime.

An article published as an insert in the Net News on 15 May said Mr. Evans and another former Net News employee had been involved in a ‘break-in’ at the publisher’s office on 3 September, 2007.

A 5 June article quoted Mr. Seales saying: ‘…obviously John Evans has forgotten that he could be called to account for his illegal entry into my office looking for supposed evidence of a corrupt relationship.’

‘Material published by Cayman Net News on 16 May, 5 June, 20 August and 25 August contained what I regard as totally unjustified allegations against me,’ Mr. Evans wrote in a letter to Acting Police Commissioner David George. ‘When I return to Grand Cayman at the beginning of 2009, one of my aims will be to make a formal statement to an appropriately experienced officer so that the RCIPS can instigate a full investigation.’

‘I believe these allegations could constitute – criminal libel, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and false allegations that another person has committed a crime,’ Mr. Evans’ statement continued.

Mr. Seales did not respond to Compass attempts to solicit his comments on the matter.

Under Cayman Islands law, defamation – called libel in published or broadcast form and slander in spoken form – is a criminal offence. Defamatory material is defined as ‘matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation.’

If the published material is true, or if it was published under certain privilege afforded to the courts, Legislative Assembly or the Cabinet, a defamation claim cannot be substantiated.

The press and the general public are also afforded several different conditional protections from defamation claims, among them; if published reports are a fair and accurate representation of anything said or done in an open court proceeding, if the matter is a reprinted item which has previously been published elsewhere, and if the matter is published in good faith for the protection of the rights and interests of the person who publishes it.

However, the conditional protection against a defamation claim does not apply if the material published is not true, the person publishing it did not take reasonable care to ascertain whether it was true, or if the person publishing the material acted with intent to injure the person who was defamed ‘in substantially greater degree…than was reasonably necessary for the interest of the public or for the protection of the private right or the interest in respect of which he claims to be privileged.’

Both Mr. Evans and Mr. Seales have given statements to UK Met officers and could appear as witnesses at Mr. Martin’s trial, which is expected to start next year. Mr. Evans said he will delay the formal filing of a complaint until the trial has ended.

The UK officers, led by retired Chief Superintendent Martin Bridger, came to Cayman last year looking into allegations that Mr. Seales and Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis exchanged confidential information which might have placed Royal Cayman Islands Police officers in danger.

A full investigation proved those claims to be false.

The subsequent probe led to the removal of three top RCIPS commanders, including Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, and criminal charges against Mr. Martin who worked for Net News until his arrest on 27 March.