Retired ophthalmologist awarded £30,000 libel damages for Facebook slur
In December 2022 Dr Than Wai, a retired ophthalmologist, originally from Myanmar, issued libel proceedings against Dr Htay Kywe, a retired General Practitioner, also originally from Myanmar, in respect of allegations made by Dr Kywe on the ‘Moe Joe News’ Facebook page.
The words sued upon (that Dr Wai was, in essence, a “stoolie") were said, in the context of other material on the Facebook page, to mean that Dr Wai “clandestinely gathers information about individuals affiliated, or believed to be affiliated, with pro-democracy protest groups in Myanmar and discloses such information to the Tatmadaw, in the knowledge that it will be used to assist the Tatmadaw to imprison, torture and murder those suspected of involvement with pro-democracy groups.” Master Davison accepted this meaning was reasonable.
Dr Kywe failed to file an Acknowledgment of Service or a Defence and, consequently, Dr Wai was granted judgment in default in February 2023. Dr Kywe applied to set aside the judgment in April 2023, but his application was dismissed by the Court principally on the basis that Dr Kywe had failed to show that he had a real prospect of successfully defending the claim, with prospective truth, honest opinion and public interest defences found to be without merit. Dr Wai had always maintained that the allegation was false.
In giving judgment, Master Davison said that the allegation complained of was self-evidently “very serious” and awarded Dr Wai £30,000 in damages (the Claim Form capped the claim in this sum). The Court also granted an injunction prohibiting repetition of the libel and ordered Dr Kywe to publish a summary of its judgment on the Facebook page pursuant to section 12 of the Defamation Act 2013.
As Dr Kywe had rejected an early offer of settlement in the sum of £9,975, pursuant to Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules he was ordered to pay Dr Wai an additional 10% in damages (£3,000) together with costs on the indemnity basis and punitive interest on damages and legal costs. In the event, the Court ordered Dr Kywe to pay Dr Wai’s legal costs in full in the sum of £45,517 (inclusive of VAT).
A full copy of the judgment can be found here.
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