Television doctor Christian Jessen has been ordered to pay Arlene Foster £125,000 in damages after he shared a defamatory tweet that accused her of having an extra-marital affair.
Earlier this year, Northern Ireland’s outgoing First Minister had taken libel action against the celebrity medic and brought defamation proceedings against Jessen.
At the time, Jessen had made the unfounded claim that Foster – who has been married for 25 years – was having an adulterous relationship with a close protection officer.
A judge has now ruled that Christian – who is known for appearing Embarrassing Bodies and Supersize v Superskinny – pay damages as well as Foster’s legal costs linked to the case.
Mr Justice McAlinden said the large payout was to ensure that Arlene was completely vindicated following the unfounded rumours.
“It was an outrageous libel concerning an individual of considerable standing, attacking her integrity at a most fundamental level and it involves the trashing in a very public fashion the relationship that Mrs Foster holds dearest in her life,” the judge said about the ruling.
He added: “It affected core aspects of the plaintiff’s life, namely, her relationship with her husband and her deep Christian faith.”
Judge McAlinden, who made the ruling from the High Court in Belfast, added: “To state that a woman, married for twenty five and a half years and the mother of three children, who is a committed Christian and is publicly recognised as such, who has publicly made statements extolling the sanctity and importance of marriage as a sacred relationship between a man and a woman, who also happens to be the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, its former spokesperson on equality and human rights 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.”
Jessen had made the unfounded allegation against Mrs Foster and shared the tweet in question on December 23, 2019. It was removed from the social media platform two weeks later.
During that time, the statement had been liked 3,500 times and retweeted over 500 times.
The Democratic Unionist Party leader had told the court: “It was almost as if this cut to the very core of my life.”
Speaking at the defamation case in April, the television doctor told the court that he posted the tweet based on rumours he read about on social media.
He added at the time that he wanted to highlight “possible hypocrisy behind it”, referring to the DUP’s position on same-sex marriage and abortion and that he was aware that it was “unpleasant.”
Jessen added: “I’m sure it was very unpleasant for her and I would not wish to cause her any distress.
During the case, Foster suggested that the personal attack on her marriage was meant to destabilise her at a critical time. She added that she was ‘very, very upset’ and had to sit down with her children, elderly mother and husband to reaffirm the claims weren’t true.
The ruling comes just one day before Arlene Foster’s tenure as the DUP leader comes to an end after she faced a revolt from within her party in April. There had been growing discontent among DUP members about her leadership during the last few months.
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