Former Health Minister Joe Cassar has won libel damages in a case instituted against the Labour Party over a statement it had released three years ago on a decision to annul the appointment of several medical consultants.
On August 2, 2012 the Public Service Commission had revoked the appointment of a number of medical consultants, and annulled a third call which was still under way, after it transpired that some of the candidates were not eligible.
In its statement the PL had noted that one of the applicants was a close relative of a member of Cabinet, as he was the husband of a minister’s daughter (not Dr Cassar).
The PL had blamed Dr Cassar for this “mess” saying that all this had happened under his watch while commenting that such incident fuelled suspicions of abuse.
In its decision, the court presided by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale said that the former minister at no stage had been involved in the selection process and so held that it was not true that he was responsible. It noted that the claim made by the PL had not been corroborated and it had harmed Dr Cassar’s reputation.
Though a political party had the right to level criticism against politicians, this could only be invoked as long as it constituted a “fair comment”, the magistrate said.
While noting that safeguarding the reputation of the individual was much more important than financial compensation, the court found the PL guilty and ordered it to pay Dr Cassar €1,000 in damages.
Lawyer Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi and Joe Cordina appeared for the Labour Party in their capacity as former PL president and financial administrator.
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