The Public Service Association (PSA) and its president Watson Duke have threatened to sue the administrators of an unofficial registry of people charged with violent offences against women for defamation.
In a pre-action protocol letter sent to the mytriniexperience.com website on Tuesday, lawyers representing the association and Duke claimed that they were defamed by a recent post on it.
“The publication has gained prominence and is widely circulated and freely available. It has provoked commentary and is perceived to be a sex offender’s registry, It is easy to infer that Mr Duke has been convicted of a sexual offence, when he has not,” attorney Kelvin Ramkissoon said.
Ramkissoon noted that in the post Duke was lumped with over 42 other persons charged while the link provided by the website was only connected to a newspaper report when he was charged with sedition, which barely mentioned the fact that he was accused of a sexual offence in 2016.
The post also contained a photograph of Duke, who is also the leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) and Tobago House of Assembly (THA) assemblyman for Belle Garden/Delaford, wearing a union T-shirt.
“The said report was not published on an occasion of privilege and does not constitute an fair and accurate report on the court proceedings,” Ramkissoon said.
Ramkissoon also strongly criticised the administrators of the website for publishing the report without verification.
“Had you conducted the necessary research and made the relevant inquiries as required in accordance with acceptable standards of journalism and/or social media practice, you would have been aware of the foregoing facts,” he said.
“Your failure to adequately do so justifies our clients’ assertion that the publication was actuated by malice and bad faith,” he added, as he claimed that the post severely affected his clients’ reputations.
The case being threatened by the union and Duke is unique as the pre-action protocol letter was addressed to the unknown administrators and sent via the “contact us” section of the website as no administrator was identified.
Checks on the website revealed that it also has a disclaimer stating: “Charges brought before the courts does not relate the guilt or innocence of parties involved. All Persons Are Innocent Until Proven Guilty In A Court Of Law!”
In the letter, Ramkissoon requested that the administrators reveal themselves in response to him before he brings an application to the court compelling third parties to reveal the information to continue the case and enforce any corresponding orders.
Ramkissoon noted that such a process was recently developed in the United Kingdom to deal with cyber offences by persons hiding behind websites and fake profiles.
While Ramkissoon gave the administrators 14 days in which to respond, he suggested that they could avoid litigation by issuing a retraction, a public apology and paying compensation.