“Blogging” is relatively easy even for people without a high level of technical skills. But caution should be taken when adding your comments on the internet. A recent judgment (Richardson v. Hunter) dealt with an individual’s blog posts that were deemed “manifestly defamatory” and “impossible to justify”.
The application in this court hearing is for an injunction regarding an internet document. The plaintiff, Corporal Richardson, is an RCMP officer and the defendant, Mr. Hunter, is a person who was charged and convicted of three criminal offences, namely; assault, uttering a threat to cause her death or bodily harm, and contacting her in breach of a prior probation no-contact order all of which are against his former spouse.
Mr. Hunter alleged that these matters had been resolved eight months previously, and criminal proceedings should not have been brought against him about that. He suggested in argument that the police wanted someone to blame for the tire slashing, and so the police fabricated a charge relating to events nine months earlier and he believed that there was a conspiracy.
Essentially, this court appearance is about a document that Mr. Hunter has been writing, which is available on the internet, titled, “Creating a Criminal, my story of how the RCMP turned me into a criminal.” The document is about 50 pages in length and according to the defendant, a court-appointed psychiatrist believed that writing about his experience might be of therapeutic help to Mr. Hunter. The judge in this matter examined a few excerpts from the document, in order to address the issue brought before her. Essentially, the issues in this case are whether the words that Mr. Hunter used in his document are “manifestly defamatory” and are they “impossible to justify?” In regards to the first issue, the law is relatively straightforward about what falls within the scope of a defamatory statement. In Gant v. Berube, the judge stated that
In order to establish a claim for defamation, the plaintiff must show three things: that the words complained or referred to the plaintiff in the sense that they would be understood to have been published “of and concerning” the plaintiff; that they were published to someone other than the plaintiff; and that they would tend to lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person…
The judge in this matter was agreeable that the references to Constable Richardson satisfied the first aspect of the definition of defamation regarding the blog being published of and concerning the plaintiff. The fact that the blog was posted online satisfies the second aspect of defamation, which states that the blog was published to someone other than the plaintiff. The final aspect of defamation that was stated in Gant v. Berube was would the statements lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person. The judge believed this was an obvious yes as Mr. Hunter accused the plaintiff of participating in illegal behaviour.
The next issue the judge had to deal with was whether Mr. Hunter’s statements are “impossible to justify.” There is absolutely no evidence that the plaintiff can be seen as a criminal or that she has conspired against Mr. Hunter. The judge in this hearing is satisfied that the blog contains statements which are “manifestly defamatory” and “impossible to justify”. As a result of this conclusion, the judge made an injunction restraining the defendant from making any further remarks regarding his belief that Corporal Richardson committed a crime and formed a conspiracy against him.
Further, the defendant cannot make any statements that the plaintiff is involved in “perjury, witness tampering, conspiracy, or theft.” Due to this order, the defendant will be forced to take out all the remarks regarding Corporal Richardson being involved in criminal conduct. You may consider your own blog as a private diary but remember that content published on the internet can be viewed by others and therefore, subject to laws governing defamation.
Partner, Dispute Resolution
Lindsay Kenney LLP – Langley Office