Cayman Marl Road’s Sandra Hill and counsel for Blake Ducharme failed to come to an agreement Wednesday in a civil libel lawsuit.
Hill has been ordered by the court to remove allegedly libellous publications about Ducharme from her website and social media platforms, and thus far, Hill has refused to comply.
Hill, who had been representing herself, is now seeking legal counsel, leading the court to adjourn proceedings Wednesday to allow her to seek advice.
While the court has not come to a final decision on the content, Hill has been ordered to remove the online posts, regarding firearms and customs duty offences, while the civil case is in process.
Hill objected to the injunction Wednesday morning, arguing that anyone who can hire a lawyer can order content removed before there has been a determination of libel.
Justice Ian Kawaley and the plaintiff, represented by Ogier* partner Marc Kish, struggled to determine an appropriate response to Hill’s non-compliance with the court order Wednesday morning. As a possible solution, Kish suggested drafting a statement explaining why the content about Ducharme had been ordered for removal. He proposed Hill publish the explanation and remove the content in question.
Hill rejected this suggestion, stating that it was no different than the original injunction.
After a recess to discuss a possible compromise, Kish told the judge, “We haven’t been able to reach an agreement.”
Hill then stated that she had been contacted by someone in the legal profession who was willing to provide assistance on the basis of legal aid.
Kawaley adjourned the case to allow Hill to seek counsel and apply for legal aid. He added the condition that Hill comply with the initial court order and that she refrain from further publications connecting Ducharme to the firearms and customs allegations.
While the rule of law requires court orders be adhered to, Kawaley said, it also requires access to legal advice.
“What I am minded to do is grant an order adjourning this application to a date to be fixed under the condition that the article in question is removed from the relevant website,” Kawaley said.
“If this original story continues to be published and anything that comes close to saying Mr. Ducharme has committed these offences and used his influence to escape prosecution under the law, that would be a breach of the injunction and the condition [for which] I am granting an adjournment.”
Kish expressed frustration in delaying the case.
“I’m conscious of what Ms. Hill mentioned this morning that there would be no circumstances in which she would take down the article,” Kish said.
The issue of unpublishing posts on social media arose, with Hill arguing that the posts could not be restored if they were eventually found to not be libellous.
Kawaley acknowledged that he is not on social media himself and did not fully understand how platforms such as Facebook work.
It was not mentioned in court that Facebook allows administrators to make posts private and only visible to the publisher. Posts can later be restored and made fully visible to the public.
The court did not set a date Wednesday to readjourn to hear the case.
*Editor’s note: The Cayman Compass is owned by Ogier partner James Bergstrom.