Hill admits making allegations, denies offence

Cayman Marl Road administrator Sandra Teresa Hill told the Grand Court Monday that while it is possible Matthew Leslie might have been offended by her allegations about him, she does not think those comments amounted to harassment because she believed them to be true.

Hill is on trial for a charge of using an ICT (information and communications technology) network to abuse/annoy/harass. The charge stems from a podcast and a series of online posts made by Hill in February 2019, during which she levelled a number of allegations against Leslie. Those allegations included details about Leslie’s marriage and other aspects of his personal and professional life. The allegations were then posted on Hill’s Cayman Marl Road website and its related social media platforms.

On Thursday, Justice Roger Chapple ruled that the truthfulness of the allegations was not a matter for the courts to decide, and instead should focus on whether Hill had committed an offence by publishing the allegations.

During cross examination on Monday, prosecutor Darlene Oko drew the court’s attention to a 2018 civil case during which Leslie filed a lawsuit against Hill and was successful in default after Hill failed to reply.

The court heard that days prior to the February 2019 podcast, Hill created a fake ‘Wanted’ poster with Leslie’s picture. She was eventually visited by police who requested that she not record the show and presented her with an option to meet with Leslie beforehand to discuss the matter. Hill declined to meet with him and proceeded with the show.

“After all that, you had a letter delivered from Matthew Leslie’s attorneys on the day of the podcast, [and] you’re saying that you had no idea that the contents you posted on the podcast could be considered abusive, annoying or harassing to Mr. Leslie?” asked Oko. “Is that what you are asking the court to believe?”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Hill replied. “Again, his lawyers told [me about] potential civil concerns. I have not heard from them since that day. So, I guess then those didn’t bear fruit.”

Following the podcast, Hill wrote several posts which divulged private conversations between Leslie and his then wife. When asked why she chose to do so, Hill told the court that Leslie had been a political candidate and she thought the community should know.

“He was running for office in 2013 and in 2017 and the details were already in the public domain,” said Hill. “I was merely speaking about the things that everybody in Cayman already knew at the time.”

The prosecution’s case against Hill is that her actions of broadcasting the podcast and writing a series of posts around it amounted to an offence. Justice Chapple was told that Hill knew the posts and podcasts would eventually reach Leslie who, the court heard, reached out to Hill through several means to discourage her from publishing the allegations.

The charges have been brought under Section 9 of the ICT Law. The section reads, in part, “A person who knowingly uses an ICT network or ICT service to defraud, abuse, annoy, threaten or harass any other person commits an offence.”

“I’m aware of the section, but I never knew it applied to media,” said Hill who described her Cayman Marl Road website as a place where people can get “gossip”, among other things.

Hill admits the alleged conduct, but argues that it does not amount to a criminal offence.

The trial will continue on 17 June. Hill was released on bail conditions.

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.

Donate