Wednesday 15 July, 2020

Staceyann Chin slams defamation ruling against gender activist

 Staceyann Chin

Staceyann Chin

Spoken-word poet, performing artist and LGBT rights political activist Staceyann Chin criticised the recent ruling in the Jamaican Supreme Court that will see Latoya Nugent, co-founder of advocacy group, Tambourine Army, forced to fork out J$16 million to settle a defamation suit brought against her by former Moravian Minister, Dr Canute Thompson.

Chin, whose "activist driven" work has garnered praise in various overseas publications, said she found the courts' response "disproportionately punitive."

"This is a sad, sorry, unfortunate use of the power of the courts. Forcing accusers to pay the accused 16 million dollars underscores the message we have been sending to women and girls ... be quiet, keep it to yourself. Nobody wants to hear from you," Chin told Loop News reporter Claude Mills. 

Latoya Nugent

Chin was responding to the handing down of the award on Thursday in the Supreme Court. Nugent was also ordered to pay Thompson’s legal costs.

The court had entered a default judgment against Nugent after she failed to respond to, or file a defence against, the claim filed by Thompson in 2017.

Thompson had filed the suit after Nugent made several posts on social media site Facebook in December 2016 against him.

Nugent, who is described as a gender activist, had been arrested and charged in March 2017 under the Cybercrimes Act. The St Andrew resident was charged with three counts of using a computer for malicious communication under section 9 (1) of the Act. It was alleged that Nugent published information on social media, suggesting that certain individuals were sexual predators.

She was facing up to four years in prison but in May 2017, the matter was discontinued in the Kingston and St Andrew parish court by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn.

While Chin did not condone Nugent's methods, she nevertheless remained strident in her opposition to the continued victimisation of children and women in all sectors of the Jamaican society.  

"As we watch the parade of sensational headlines pass by, it’s important that we not lose sight of the fact that there was a conviction for child abuse, and another priest is charged- all this while innumerable stories about sexual violation remain trapped in the shadows. Sexual assault, sexual misconduct, sexual molestation, and pedophilia exists, in every sector of every society. People are justifiably angry about it. We should turn our attention to the reason for that anger," Chin said. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines pedophilia as an intense and recurrent sexual interest in prepubescent children, and a disorder if it causes a person “marked distress or interpersonal difficulty” or if the person acts on his interests.

"Whether you agree or disagree with Nugent’s methods, we can all agree that her actions are the messy by-product of a very real problem. Anger is a reasonable response to this horrific phenomenon, and survivors are given no legitimate outlet for that anger. I find the courts response disproportionately punitive," she added. 

According to the DPP, after reviewing the material on all three counts, there was not enough to make it a viable prosecution of Nugent two years ago. Llewellyn said the charges were not viable because each count could not satisfy all the ingredients under the relevant section of the Cybercrimes Act. At the time of discontinuing the case, Llewellyn had encouraged the three complainants, including Thompson, to seek civil remedies. She had been arrested and charged after formal complaints were made to the police by some of the individuals, and her case became front page news when Nugent fell sick while in lock-up at the Duhaney Park Police Station and had to be taken for treatment.

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