Two Kenyans living in the UK have been ordered by a London court to pay over Sh3.6 million (£26,516) in damages for defaming a lawyer through their community online social website known as www.misterseed.com.
Sources in London, UK indicate that A Queen’s Counsel at the Queen’s Bench Division of the Supreme Court of Justice, Mr Master Kay (Q.C) who presided over the case in which a Kenyan father and his son have been accused of libel, ordered Mr Peter Njiiri Karanja popularly known in the UK as ‘Misterseed’ after the name of his website, and his son Jackson Njiiri Karanja, to pay the lawyer, Mr David Muroki Kague £20,000 in damages for defaming him through their website.
The court has also issued an order for two separate awards £2,286 and £3,655 in favour of Mr Kague in legal costs. The £3,655 has however become the subject of an appeal process.
It is reported that Mr Kague who practices law in the UK with the firm of Moorehouse Solicitors in North West London represented himself in his suit against Mr Kiruthi and Mr Karanja who are father and son respectively, for defamatory postings published through www.misterseed.com falsely claiming that Mr Kague had dishonestly taken money from people.
In the suit papers Mr Kague denied he had ever taken any money from anyone dishonestly and submitted that the defamatory allegations against him were a creation emanating from business rivalry and enmity between him and some other Kenyans in the UK whose only intention was to undermine him as a business person and as a member of the legal profession, in the minds of right thinking members of the society.
The case is being followed keenly in the Diaspora Community especially in the US and the UK because cases of libel and defamation have been on the rise since the mushrooming of self-styled community web sites whose owners have little background in journalism.
Since the proliferation of unregulated social media sometimes referred to as alternative press both at home and abroad, some of these online news sources have been used by their proprietors to either solicit money or settle scores.
Conned people money
Handing out judgment Master Kay (Q.C) said that Mr Kiruthi and Mr Karanja defamed Mr Kague on the internet through postings falsely claiming that he (Mr Kague) was a dishonest person and had conned people money in the UK.
In his judgment Master Kay said that despite Mr Kiruthi and Mr Karanja being given ample opportunity to adduce evidence linking Mr Kague to any dishonest activities they failed to produce any evidence hence the defence attempts they made were “utterly hopeless and without merit” in the absence of any evidence being produced in court.
Master Kay said that having not been able to defend themselves, Mr Kiruthi and Mr Karanja were liable for libel and could not challenge Mr Kague’s claim against them.
Master Kay said the court agreed that Mr Kague had been deliberately or carelessly defamed and that he had suffered the natural consequences of defamation, namely that he had suffered distress and had been held to ridicule. Mr Kague, the judge said, was a British subject and had a reputation to be protected under UK law.
The court ruled that after considering all that had been put before it by the parties Mr Kague did not appear to have done anything to warrant the attack upon his reputation.
The court said that instead of making any attempts to apologise, or showing remorse, it was “deplorable” that Mr Kiruthi and Mr Karanja had gone ahead to allege in court that Mr Kague had fraudulently invented the claim against them so as to make money from them.
Awarding Mr Kague £20,000 in damages for libel, Master Kay said he could only award such a low level of damages because it was difficult to assess the extent of the defamation on the basis that the readership of the website could not be ascertained as would have been possible had the case been against a well known newspaper.