Former minister asks court to send local blogger to prison

The attorney for former Finance Minister Marco Archer has requested a “committal order” against local blogger Sandra Hill (formerly Sandra Catron), alleging that Ms. Hill violated a court order prohibiting publication of defamatory material against Mr. Archer.

A committal order is an order of the court that sends an individual to jail.

Ms. Hill’s attorney, Ben Tonner, QC, on Friday denied that she had breached any court order against publication of the material. The issue was set down for a hearing this week.

Mr. Archer and Ms. Hill have been at odds since last month when the former minister sued Ms. Hill and won a temporary injunction against the publication of a blog post that Mr. Archer alleged had defamed him. The specifics of the matter cannot be reported due to the court order issued on Aug. 30 prohibiting publication.

The order, made after Mr. Archer sued Ms. Hill, stated that: “[Ms. Hill], her servants or agents, be restrained from broadcasting or continuing to publish a post first published on her website ‘Caymanmarlroad.com’ which is located at [weblink listed] entitled “Archer accused of abuse of office in stamp duty fiasco” [“the Defamatory Post”].”

The order asked that the post be removed from the website and “any forms of social media where it has been published” and that Ms. Hill be restrained from “further distribution” of the post.

It is alleged by Mr. Archer’s attorney, Colm Flanagan, that the Aug. 30 court order was breached in two instances, once during a talk radio appearance and again in a later publication on Ms. Hill’s website.

Grand Court Justice Timothy Owen, who was not the justice issuing the Aug. 30 injunction, said the matter of contempt of court should be decided promptly before any further action was taken in the civil lawsuit.

Justice Owen extended the order against publication and warned local media covering the hearing not to repeat any of the allegations in the original blog post.

Disobedience of court orders is one kind of “contempt of court” under Cayman Islands law, and in this case what is alleged to have occurred is called “civil contempt,” rather than a criminal contempt. In such cases, the aggrieved party can make application to the court to jail the “contemnor” (the person who is alleged to be in contempt of the order).

According to the Cayman Islands Law Reform Commission, it is possible in the Cayman Islands to be given an “indefinite sentence” for contempt and to be released only when the individual has “purged” their contemptuous acts, meaning they comply with the court order.

The cases are not decided by trial, but are instead ruled on from the bench typically by the judge who made the initial order.

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