Nova Scotia

Top court won't hear defamation case

Two prominent Halifax lawyers have won the final round of a libel case against them.

Two prominent Halifax lawyers have won the final round of a libel case against them.

The Supreme Court of Canada said Thursday it wouldn't hear an appeal from a police officer, who said the lawyers damaged her reputation.

Two years ago, a jury found Anne Derrick and Rocky Jones had defamed Const. Carol Campbell Waugh, and were ordered to pay her $240,000 in damages.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia overturned that decision. But Campbell Waugh turned to the Supreme Court of Canada.

On Thursday, the country's highest court dismissed the officer's request. It did not give a reason.

Anne Derrick said she's delighted the Supreme Court decided the court of appeal decision should stand.

"That was a decision that very much emphasized important constitutionally protected rights such as freedom of expression and equality – advocacy on behalf of persons that are disadvantaged," she said.

The original jury found Derrick and Jones defamed the police officer as a result of comments they made at a news conference in 1995.

The lawyers were representing three 12-year-old girls who said they were stripped-searched by the officer as she investigated a $10 theft. The lawyers claimed it would not have happened if the girls had been white and from an affluent neighbourhood.

Rocky Jones' lawyer, Nancy Rubin, said the Supreme Court decision gives lawyers more freedom to defend their clients.

"These were lawyers who were representing underprivileged and disadvantaged girls in society and they were faced with some aggregious charter breaches so they did have an obligation to speak out," said Rubin.

"Part of their obligation to speak was grounded in their ethical duties to speak out against injustices."

But the union representing Halifax police officers is backing its member.

"The jury found that Carol was defamed and that she deserves her reputation back. She has been vindicated and neither the appeal court nor the Supreme Court of Canada decisions change that," said Const. Mike Balcom, union president.