Embarrassing Bodies doc fined £125,000 over 'outrageous' tweet claiming Arlene Foster was having an affair
A CELEBRITY doctor who tweeted “LOL” when put on notice by Arlene Foster’s solicitor has been ordered to pay £125,000 in damages.
Dr Christian Jessen made false social media allegations regarding Ms Foster having an extra-marital affair with a close protection officer.
Previously The Former First Minister of Northern Ireland and MLA for the DUP said that the tweet was “categorically untrue.”
Embarrassing Bodies star Dr Jessen has now been ordered by a judge at the High Court in Belfast to pay £125k in damages for posting the “outrageous” tweet.
A court previously heard that the tweet caused a “deep hurt” to both her and her husband of 25 years, and came when she was attempting to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland.
Delivering his judgementJustice Gerry McAlinden said: "To state that a woman married for 25-and-a-half years and a mother of three children, who is a committed Christian and who is recognised as such.
"And who has publicly made statements extolling the importance and sanctity of marriage, who also happens to be the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and a holder of the office of First Minister of Northern Ireland, was an adulterer, a hypocrite and a homophobe is a most serious libel and is grossly defamatory.
"It is an outrageous libel concerning an individual of considerable standing, attacking her integrity at the most fundamental level, and it involves the trashing in a very public fashion of the relationship that Mrs Foster holds dearest in her life.
"It affected core aspects of her life, namely her relationship with her husband, her deep Christian faith, it called into question her fitness and suitability to occupy the office of First Minister at a time when delicate negotiations were continuing on the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive.
"In short, I consider that it was an outrageously bad libel.
At a previous hearing the court heard that the distress caused to Mrs Foster and her family was compounded by the posting being made two days before Christmas in 2019.
Mr Justice McAlinden continued: "The offending tweet remained on the defendant's Twitter account for two weeks, a Twitter account with 311,000 followers.
"The tweet was liked approximately 3,500 times and it was retweeted 517 times. The fact that the defendant failed to take down the offending tweet was the subject of mainstream media coverage.
"This outrageously bad libel cut her (Mrs Foster) to the core, causing her considerable upset, distress, humiliation, embarrassment and hurt.
"Bearing in mind the time of year and the work-related pressures the plaintiff was under at that time, I fully accept this libel took a heavy emotional toll despite her experience of dealing with the heat of robust political debate.
"Her marriage, her family life and her faith are the most important things in her life. These things provide important pillars of support and it was these things that were publicly trashed."
Defamation proceedings were brought against Dr Jessen for the tweet on his account with more than 300,000 followers.
The judge referred to evidence given by Arlene Foster suggesting the timing of the tweet may have been deliberately chosen to undermine negotiations concerning the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive.
He added: "I do not ascribe to the defendant the knowledge of, or interest in Northern Ireland politics which would be a prerequisite to giving any detailed consideration to the possibility that the timing of this tweet was intended to influence the outcome of the negotiations.
“However, in respect of the anonymous tweets which preceded the defendant's much more prominent statement, such a motivation cannot be dismissed out of hand.
"Further aggravating features include the tardy response to the letter of claim, the woefully inadequate and deliberately misleading response, the failure to respond to any subsequent respondence, the failure to publish any form of apology or retraction and his failure to make any offer of compensation, which has resulted in the plaintiff being required to give evidence."
The Harley Street medic, best known for presenting Channel 4 shows Embarrassing Bodies and Supersize v Superskinny, did not entered a defence to the libel action.
The tweet posted on December 23 was only removed two weeks later.
During that period it received 3,500 likes and was retweeted more than 500 times as “the mob joined in”, according to David Ringland QC.
He argued that the libel was further aggravated by Dr Jessen further tweeting “LOL (Laugh Out Loud)” on Christmas Day after being put on notice by Mrs Foster’s solicitor.
A day later the defendant allegedly posted: “People are now comparing me to Barbra Streisand – this gay boy’s life cannot get any better!!!!.”
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