A pet groomer who felt aggrieved by Facebook posts by a former customer on a site shared by some 12,000 members, has been awarded €1,000 in libel damages.

Charmaine Martin, partner of PN candidate Wayne Hewitt, filed for libel earlier this year over comments posted by Jasmine Urry on the ‘Group PN’ Facebook site.

It had all been sparked off by a message sent by Ms Martin in February 2018, informing Ms Urry that she would be resuming her pet grooming services after a temporary shutdown due to health reasons.

That message was soon met with a firm ‘NO THANK YOU’ from Ms Urry who had traded comments with Ms Martin when the latter allegedly posted “insults towards our leader Dr Adrian Delia.”

That message was soon followed up by a post on the ‘Group PN’ telling Ms Martin “that’s what you get when you mix work and politics,” with a clear reference to “Hewitt’s partner.”

The following day, a second post published on the group page read “Sorry, but this is my truth. Don’t mix politics and work Charmaine (Hewitt’s partner)”

All efforts to contact Ms Urry proved futile and although the police were called in to attempt to resolve the matter, Ms Urry refused to cooperate, prompting Ms Martin to file the libel suit.

Ms Martin had also sent Ms Urry a legal letter requesting her to remove the post, but this was only done days later by the administrator of the Facebook group.

Ms Urry never published an apology over the offensive posts, arguing that these amounted to a value judgment.

The court, presided over by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, stressed its “serious concern” over the use of such social media platforms which, it said, were increasingly being employed by individuals who wanted to cast others in a bad light, “with other individuals or even worldwide.”

Rather than serve as means of unity, these platforms were sparking arguments and stirring hatred, sometimes leading to “dangerous actions” as a result of extreme views, the court observed, adding that this did not suit a democratic society based on pluralism and the open exchange of views.

Pointing out that Ms Martin had failed to present evidence in support of her claims regarding negative comments in her regard and the damages actually suffered, the court nonetheless declared the said posts as defamatory and ordered Ms Urry to fork out €1,000 by way of damages.

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