AG nolles lawyer’s libel case
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Apr 20, 2017
One week after attorney Maria Daxon challenged the constitutionality of the criminal libel laws, the attorney general yesterday discontinued the case against her.
Daxon, who was fired from the Royal Bahamas Police Force in 2015, had been accused of publishing defamatory statements about the police commissioner and a now retired assistant commissioner.
Daxon, 50, of Pinewood Gardens, was charged with two counts of intentional libel.
Prosecutors alleged that Daxon on August 26 and August 30, 2016 published writings about both Commissioner Ellison Greenslade and Assistant Commissioner Leon Bethell that would expose them to general hatred, contempt or ridicule.
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson directed the prosecution be discontinued and, as a result, Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes discharged the case.
The discharge does not serve as an acquittal and the case could be refiled, though it is unlikely.
Daxon’s constitutional challenge sought a declaration that the charge of intentional libel is “void, illegal and of no effect” as it represents a breach of her constitutional right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 23(1) of the Bahamian constitution, the country’s supreme law.
It also requested that the Supreme Court order that Forbes either quash or dismiss the proceedings against Daxon, and declare that Section 315 (2) of the Penal Code, which provides for the offense of criminal intentional libel, is unconstitutional, which would lead to the removal of the offense from the country’s statute books.
The filing also calls for the commissioner of police to pay Daxon’s legal costs in connection with the case, and to also pay damages for bringing an unconstitutional challenge against her in the first place.
In recent years, criminal libel laws have come under serious challenge around the world, with a number of countries declaring them unconstitutional. Over the past two decades alone, several Commonwealth countries have abolished these laws, including Britain, Jamaica, Grenada, New Zealand, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Sri Lanka.