Former Premier Dr Brown issues writ against online commentator

An online commentator named in a writ issued by former Premier Ewart Brown says he does not know what the civil suit is about.

Noel Ashford, a Bermudian who has lived overseas for the past two years, told The Royal Gazette the first he knew about the legal action was when this newspaper contacted him yesterday.

The writ was filed in the Supreme Court by Charter Chambers law firm, acting for Dr Brown, on August 23. Mr Ashford is named as the defendant but no other details are given.

It wasn’t possible to reach Dr Brown for comment at his home or clinic yesterday. A receptionist at Charter Chambers said founding director Marc Daniels was the only lawyer who could assist and he was off Island.

Mr Ashford, 36, said: “I wasn’t even actually aware of the writ. I don’t live in Bermuda and I’m not entirely sure that’s going to get much traction on a non-resident.”

Mr Ashford, a former member of the United Bermuda Party who declined to say where he now lives, added he could only guess that the writ was connected to his “outspoken” posts on Facebook.

“I have made comments for a long time,” he said. “I am equally as outspoken as the next blogger. [But] free speech is legal and allowed where I live. I’m quite happy to live in a place where it is.”

He said he last engaged in online dialogue with Dr Brown about six or seven years ago but regularly posted his views online on various forums — and all such comments were posted from overseas.

“How can you serve a non-resident [with a writ] and hold them liable to the laws of a country where they don’t live?” he asked. “I find that very interesting and I don’t see any legal possibility of how he can proceed with that. Where I live, I am a firm believer that I am entitled to voice my opinions under my rights and, accordingly, my freedom of speech.”

This newspaper asked a lawyer not involved in the case to comment on whether it would be possible for Dr Brown to pursue the action.

The lawyer, who asked not to be named, said an application to serve the writ “out of jurisdiction” within 60 days would need to be made, providing Mr Ashford’s overseas address was known.

“If the alleged transaction happened in cyberspace, it could be multi-jurisdictional and I don’t think our legislation has caught up to that kind of thing,” said the lawyer.

“Dr Brown would be more successful in making an attempt there [where Mr Ashford lives] than here. I think Charter is going to have a bit of a problem. It will be a question of saying ‘How do you bring the defendant into the jurisdiction?’."

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