The Malta Independent 22 May 2018, Tuesday

Ex-partner slapped with €3,000 fine for sending series of defamatory messages

Thursday, 18 January 2018, 17:00 Last update: about 4 months ago

A man has been ordered to pay €3,000 in moral damages to his ex-partner after sending a series of libellous and defamatory messages to her, her friends and her new partner.

The man was ordered to pay the fine for a number of allegations made in the messages, the most damaging of which is that she falsely accused him of rape.

The defendant and his former partner had shared a relationship for 20 months, between July 2014 and March 2016. The court noted that the termination of their relationship was a tumultuous one.

The story began after the woman had entered a new relationship, and the man began messaging the new partner.

After delivering cryptic warnings, he asked to meet the new partner in person in order to justify what he said in his previous message.

In October 2016, he sent a series of text messages to the woman’s new partner, warning him that he is just another “victim”.

The new partner filed a report with the police, but despite this the defendant continued sending him more text messages.

Following this, the woman filed a complaint with the police against her former partner for allegedly sharing photos of a sexual nature and criminal proceedings were launched. The man was accused of harassment and misuse of electronic equipment, among other charges. It transpired that she never actually accused him of rape.

Despite this the defendant continue to contact the new partner, calling the woman a “narcissistic psychopath” and saying that finally, the truth is coming out.

He cautioned the new partner that maybe in the future, she would charge him with rape too. He also began messaging friends of his former partner, challenging them to meet up so that he may say his side of the story. He sent a message to a common friend of theirs who had introduced them in the first place to warn that she should change her social media passwords, claiming she “was one of those people hacked”.

In his submissions, the man argued that the messages he sent were all private and lacked the element of publicity required when finding somebody guilty of libel. He contended that the woman falsely accused him of rape and he was currently in the process of criminal proceedings as a result of that accusation. The argument therefore follows, according to him, that since these accusations were in the public domain, he has every right to comment about them and beyond this justify his position to those who were aware of the history between them.

He stressed that ultimately his wish was to meet the woman’s new partner and clear out the issues at hand.

Magistrate Francesco Depsaquale, presiding over the case, was tasked with examining whether a private message or an SMS message could qualify as the subject of a libel case. Ultimately he ruled that this was indeed the case as the messages were a form of written communication.

By choosing to message a series of people, including friends of his former partner, it meant that the element of publication had been met.

Depasquale pointed out that the criminal proceedings against the man make no mention of rape. The defendant had asserted that the woman hacked his Facebook account to delete messages that she had sent him. This was judged to be highly unlikely as she had presented, as evidence, exchanges between the pair in their entirety as part of her submissions.

Depasquale noted it was far more likely that the man deleted them in order to corroborate his version of events. Although the text messages sent directly from the man to the woman contained no allegations, the fact that he insisted that the “truth will come out” resulted in the woman’s reputation being called into question.

The court also noted that since the man frequently visited the Facebook page of his former partner, taking note of who she was seeing and spending time with; his intention was to cause the woman damage.

Since, in one message, he wrote that “I will do all it takes to destroy you. I swear this on my kids life,” helped the court come to its conclusions. The man was ultimately found to have defamed and libelled his former partner, and condemned him to pay €3,000 in moral damages. 

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