The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Two Cheers for Free Civic Expression

(With apologies to EM Forster)

In all my years of weekly musing, more than eighteen (18) now, I have scarcely ever written of my personal experiences during the week prior; out of both a desire not to bore my readers overmuch with details of a life of mostly studied contemplation and a natural bashful reluctance on my part to expose my personal business to a national audience, many of whom, I believe, could hardly care less thereabout.

However, I make an exception today. It has been a rather quiet week, given my professional obligation to grade a substantial number of examination scripts, attendance at a couple of meetings and trying to catch some of the televised cricket being played in the antipodean summer. Besides, I needed to write a column today if only to convey the compliments of the season to my readers.

One experience last week that I find worthy of comment is the conversation I had on a blog, trying to explain why justification is an absolute defence to an action for defamation and why the concepts of malice and reputation in the tort of defamation differ somewhat from their ordinary meanings in common English parlance. Ever the teacher, I suppose. Mindful of my obligations to the publisher and editor of this newspaper to maintain your interest, I prefer not to bore you with the drab details of my exposition on these topics, but one query and my consequent response forcefully brought home to me the disparity that currently exists in freedom of expression enjoyed by the parliamentarian and the man or woman in the street.

The question posed was-

Hi Jeff:

Let me ask you one direct question, and I would like you to give me a yes or no answer, with as much or little explanation as you wish. Your answer should resolve this issue. The question is this.

If I published on my blog, incontrovertible evidence of corruption by a person, that can directly result in injury to the high reputation of that person, is there any way that I can be successfully sued for defamation in Barbados courts, by that person, under the current Defamation Act?

My response was as follows-

To answer your question, I am taking it at face value, that is, that the evidence you possess is truly “incontrovertible”. The law of evidence is not too highly complex, but your evidence must first pass the test of admissibility -that it does not offend any of the established rules, is relevant, and is of probative value. In sum, that it assists the court in establishing your affirmation. That having been said, I would advise further that the best evidence in this matter would be a document that implicates the culprit by his or her own admission-as in his or her signature.

If the evidence is indeed “incontrovertible” in that sense, then no successful action for defamation may be sustained. Of course, it is not possible to prevent a lawsuit from anyone on any fanciful claim, but in this case, on the premises, it would be struck out as disclosing no cause of action likely of success. Again, be reminded that this is a legal opinion only. In mediaeval times, as I wrote earlier, an offended party might have resorted to the use of force of arms (vi et armis) to uphold his reputation. I cannot vouch that cognate action, perhaps in a more “civilized” fashion, might not be taken against you for your revelation.

The questioner thereupon took the decision not to publish the evidence-

I think that the negative risks of following that opinion are far too great.


Of course the position pertaining to the disclosure of evidence of corruption has been improved somewhat with the provisions of the Integrity in Public Life Bill 2018, currently under parliamentary consideration, that permit a public official to make a protected disclosure as defined but, even so, the nature and circumstances of that disclosure as well as the entities to whom it may be disclosed are strictly regulated by the statute. It should be clear therefore that in no circumstance could such a disclosure, even with “incontrovertible” evidence be lawfully made in a public forum, except perhaps where it may be compliant with the principles governing “responsible communication” as that defence is now known.

Contrast this with the freedom of speech enjoyed by the parliamentarian speaking in in Parliament [but not outside] under the doctrine of absolute or parliamentary privilege that not even malice can vitiate.

Is this distinction justifiable in modern democratic society? I mean not to contemn Parliament and I am fully aware that this is one of the ancient privileges claimed by the honourable House, but should parliamentarians enjoy an unfettered freedom of expression when some may be fairly accused of defamation by innuendo were circumstances different? This is for your holiday contemplation, especially given that this state of affairs is unlikely to change anytime soon.

To all the readers of this column, frequent and otherwise, I should like to wish you sincerely a Merry Christmas and a 2019 blessed with good health and true prosperity.

58 thoughts on “The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Two Cheers for Free Civic Expression

  1. On behalf of the BU household well wishes to you Jeff and your family. We appreciate the time you take to enlighten the blogosphere via the social media platform, BU, Facebook etc.

    Well wishes extended also to ALL members of the BU family including those who prefer to read.

    It is a busy time at this time of the year for many. What ever you do, be safe!

  2. Justification is, or should be a defence to any action to expose, nullify, or counter any crime. For example, the Nazis gave every justification for bombing them into submission, likewise the Japanese for the atomic bombs to bring them to heel.
    Thus justification supersedes all of Leximoron’s instructions from on high to do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you, as that state of nirvana has already been trashed.
    All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing, and it is a shame your correspondent chose that pusillanimous course of inaction.

    A merry Christmas to all BU contributors, especially our esteemed blog host, and a healthy and prosperous NewYear to all.

  3. Jeff, best wishes for the ensuing year and may God be the guide, protector and the deliverer, in that the year has in-store…

  4. Hope everyone has a merry Christmas and a happy new year, 45 if germany and japan had won would history absolve them of their crimes.

  5. Lawson, the history is always written by the victors. Let us hope we will soon be writing about our victory over the world’s greatest threats to civilisation, islam.
    Remember what Gen Eisenhower wrote about the Nazi death camps – that every newsman and news photographer in America should be sent to record the evil, so that no one could later seek to deny the truth, which of course they have done, and still do.

  6. I slept in eizenhowers bedroom in culzean castle with his portrait watching me everywhere I went. ..pretty scary most haunted place in scotland. A very smart man

  7. Lucky you Lawson – amazing what you learn!!

    “In 1945, the Kennedy family gave the castle and its grounds to the National Trust for Scotland (thus avoiding inheritance tax). In doing so, they stipulated that the apartment at the top of the castle be given to General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. The General first visited Culzean Castle in 1946 and stayed there four times, including once while President of the United States.”

  8. 45govt aka rightwing bigot

    Sir, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not Bajan because who Bajan in this day and age is still fixated on the events of World War II?
    Nevertheless, Sir move on with your life the war is over ( Germany and Japan have been defeated) because your obsession with World War II, and your aversion with Islam is wreaking havoc on your mental health and I am very concerned for your life.

  9. Let me add my voice to the others in wishing Jeff a Happy Xmas and a healthy New Year. It can be said “he is made of the right stuff”.

    To “David” for his dedication and perseverance in providing us with the opportunity of free expression on this site a Merry Xmas and an even better New Year.

    To all others who engage on the blog (actively or otherwise) a wonderful holiday season.

  10. Leximoron, with every post you fortify your claim to being called Lexicunt.
    Though it is no business of a sad, illiterate old god-bothering cretin like yourself, let me disabuse you of your fantasies.
    1) I do NOT live in America.
    2) I am a Bajan
    3) I am a LOT smarter than you…indeed nearly anyone seems to be
    WWI is a specialist subject of mine, and I have visited many of the Western battlefields. You are interested in sky-fairies, of the Christian variety, and seem to be living in a bubble if you cannot see your fellow Christians are being eliminated in the most ghastly ways wherever the votaries of islam, that pernicious, violent proselyting belief system that paints you as an infidel, a mere kuffir to be enslaved or beheaded holds sway. You cannot see that their aim is to finishwhat we forced Adolf to leave off. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and you have so little knowledge of history, you are a woefully easy mark.

    “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism (Islam) lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity.
    The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

    Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.”.

    Read and learn Leximoron, and if you find any of the words too large for your ready comprehension, let me recommend you acquire a lexicon!

  11. My grandfather won a MM at highwood have you been there 45…. if so I am envious. Imagine all those young men giving up their lives so that we live a better life than 99 percent of anybody that has lived on this planet since the dawn of time and we still find things to complain about. When the Muslim community brings us back to what they perceive as the good old days were all in trouble

  12. Lawson. My grandfather was one of the 19,270 who died on the first day of the Somme, July 1st 1916. No known grave, and yes, I have travelled extensively over the killing grounds of WWI, first with my own father, and then solo. Verdun is eerie beyond belief.

    My own specialist interest lies in Normandy, and the Ardennes, having spent many a holiday there, and watched as the importance of what went on has grown in the minds of subsequent generations. Even in the early 80s there was nothing like the stuff to see that there is now, especially around St Mere Eglise. Saving Private Ryan, and the Band of Brothers (which if you haven’t seen, you must) have much to do with it I think.

  13. Real men many only boys changing the world by their selfless actions. You would think that would be something to idolize instead of sport stars , actors or singers. When a vet has an opinion on something i listen when amy shumer and her ilk blather on, its just noise

  14. @ the LUMINARY Jeff Cumberbatch

    De ole man joins with the BU family and household, to wish you the blessings of Christmas and its perennial message of the Birth of the Christ and His Coming Again

    You know something about this construct Luminary?

    You do marvellous work here on BU, at a great cost too, and through it all, you earned your respect.

    Remember your beginnings? the first few weeks here were rough but through it all, right up to the point of deciding that you would “lef de Rum Shop” you remained, and we, at least some of us, are better for it.

    There is something that de ole man would ask you though and, like the blogger in your story earlier, I too seek a serious answer.

    When you blog here do you think that the sentiment of justice and law and equity and what is right flows through and impacts all your readers?

    I mean to ask furthering, in the face of all your seasoned and reasoned posits, say on the nuances of integrity, or on the matter of defamation , do you think that the average bajan in the street, having read your pieces, will be inclined to do the right thing??

    Bear with me here Luminary.

    Do you not agree that there is a sector and category of person that, irrespective of all that you reason here, WILL READ, THEN UNDERSTAND, THEN PUT INTO PRACTICE???

    And do you think that “defamation” for people of a certain avowed mindset, has its function, if not to reorient these culprits to change their modus operandi, then to appraise others of their practices and cause potential simpleton victims to shift?

    There is a point Jeff where you CANNOT REASON WITH RABID BEASTS and intellectualizing proves ineffectual

    Observe the Leximoron at play here and see what I mean about sheeple who are victims waiting for the accident of anarchy.

    DE OLE MAN’S final question is this Luminary.

    By the strict guidelines on Laws that were chronicled a few? Years ago, some of which were, and continue to be, used to crush people in the castle of our skin, would you care to comment on “defamation” in the context of say Martin Luther King or Malcolm X?

    I mean, barring social dissent, albeit emotive and pre designed to ellicit specific responses, what do you suggest as a tool to engage sheeple?

  15. @ the Honourable Blogmaster

    Best Wishes to you and your family and friends

    To Jeff another Merry Christmas greeting as well

    And to BU all the best to you all.

    (And as usual Old David of BU I have an item in suspense and would appreciate it if you retrieved it. Many thanks for your assistance over the years. And commendations on a job well Done)

  16. 45govt

    You are going to ok buddy …I am praying for your with a fervently brother … you gine be good …I have faith that God is going to remove the antipathy of Islam, and the paralyzing memories of the World War II which I estimates have been your mental Achilles heel.

  17. Season’s Greetings and best wishes to all on the BU blog/rum-shop and likewise to you, Hants, Donna, Piece, Lexicon, TI, David, Sarge and to those others not yet on. It is a time of goodwill…let our petty differences be held in abeyance,

  18. I join the seasons wishes to all…may your days be merry and successful now and in the year ahead.

    And to you Dean Jeff and the Blogmaster(s) a hearty Bajan wishes to you and family specially.

    Deeply impressed @Jeff that you have maintained a column of “…weekly musing, more than eighteen (18) [years] now…”.


  19. @45 and Lawson you both have such profound and personal feelings on the effects of past wars, veterans etc and yet you both also share here such ‘harsh’ – if that’s not too strong a word – opinions which echo greater tribalism and divisiveness than the cohesiveness of peaceful coexsistence !

    But then again war and soldiering during wars is a complex issue…good guys can be bad too.
    Nonetheless, let’s indeed hail the valiant and virtuous now and evermore!


  20. Greetings and glad tidings to you too dPd. Unfortunately Leximoron is like a salmon-top retriever with a fish head, he doesn’t know when to retreat, and makes himself antisocial.

  21. Happy Holidays to David and his household. Happy Holidays to all BU brothers and sisters. I read most of the posts and only scroll past MONKEYBRAIN. I am hoping that we will all be here next year, healthy, wealthy and wise.

  22. @ Jeff

    Thanks very much for eighteen years of educating me and the readers of your column in the intricacies of the law. I admire your stamina. Only a good teacher, like you, would persist with such forbearance. Do have an enjoyable and peaceful Xmas.
    To all my fellow BU bloggers do have an s enjoyable Xmas filled with love and peace. I enjoy every moment of the robust and sometimes hilarious exchanges. They are really educative.

    To David(s) Bu.
    Have a Merry Xmas. Thanks for having me on this excellent Blog. Please continue the good work I think your objectives are being achieved. Bloggers are becoming more accepting of other persons perspectives. That is what real democracy is about. This blog does make a difference . At least from my experience.

  23. Thanks very much for eighteen years of educating me and the readers of your column in the intricacies of the law. I admire your stamina. Only a good teacher, like you, would persist with such forbearance. Do have an enjoyable and peaceful Xmas

    @ Vincent, I thank you for your kind words. A blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones!

  24. Deeply impressed @Jeff that you have maintained a column of “…weekly musing, more than eighteen (18) [years] now…”.

    Thanks, DPD! 21 actually… I spent three years at the Sunday Sun.

  25. of the bore war….lol just teasing …any man that puts on a uniform and fights for his country no matter winners or losers deserves respect…thankyou

  26. Happy Holidays to the Blogmaster and family, Jeff and family and all the Blogettes…….

    To you and yours too, WARU!

  27. We have not come to known that notions of ‘free civic expression’ mean all that.

    Or that this Western standard from the ‘enlightenment’ is as valuable as professed when measured against all that we have lost for the individual’s or the group’s freedom of civic expression.

    Indeed, if one has more money or a position of relative power this so called ‘freedom’ is never as free, or as equitably distributed.

    Certainly, the freedom to privacy, as civic expression, has met the same fate as the dodo bird.

    Seems to us that the equation of power keeps finding new ways to bypass all notions of popular civic expression to constantly redefine relationships, thus maintaining baked-in, historical imbalances.

  28. David

    As a unremitting truth-seeker, how could the fiction that is seasonal manage to avoid your normal scrutinizing glare?

    Or is it that some institutions, as fake and irrelevant as they may be, are to be given a pass?

    • @Pacha

      People are free to associate with a religion of choice. Isn’t this freedom supported in the Constitution of Barbados? The blogmaster is comfortable with the position that faith (using religion as a vehicle) is driven by a personal experience.

  29. David

    There are all kinds of constitutions sating all manner of things. Constitutions sometimes have stated that Afrikan peoples were chattel and so on.

    So because such are stated, that does not make it truthful or a provable historical fact.

    We also have people putting the country’s life-blood into an economic belief system, like a religion, which is arguably untrue as well. Is that all right too.

    • @Pacha

      Agreed, you accept though that it is a living document and should reflect people sentiment of the day? Posted tongue in check of course.

  30. @ Pachamama at 5:01 PM
    @ David BU at %:45 PM

    The seasonal celebrations at a fundamental level celebrate Truth…. Good will towards all men. It is a vehicle. It is the wrapping in which we encase the fundamental Truth…… Peace and Love.

    • @Vincent

      The objective of the season as explained by you many will agree. Should it be located in the dogma of religion or be accepted as a defining characteristic of humankind?

  31. @ David BU at 6 :29 PM

    From my life experiences ,it is” a defining characteristic of humankind”. If you look for it ,you will find it. It is never found in dogma which as you know constantly changes.

  32. Vincent

    Well, it always seems as though certain people could established these changing interpretations as to what fictitious structures. as set up by them. are to mean.

    In fact, we are always able to invent these new meanings as time goes on in spite of those evolved definitions bearing no relationships to the original story that was made up. How could this be?

    • @Pacha

      Is it unreasonable to think that in a capitalist society the money class will have the opportunity to influence? They will have a strong lobby at minimum. How does the position translate?

  33. Well said as usual, Vincent. It is just a wrapping paper for the fundamental truth. Human beings love stories. Not many people would listen to a dry lecture without them. There are stories in EVERY culture that convey fundamental truths. Unfortunately some people are hard of hearing and get some of it wrong.

    Now look at what Christmas has managed to achieve even here on this blog. Even Lawson and 45 have gone all soft and mushy like a Cadbury chocolate with a caramel centre.

    Happy holidays to all !

  34. Donna

    We have no doubt that you possess the divine potential to make any man change his mind, even about deep-seated issues.

    For us however, this fictitious seasonal construct is central to broader White cultural domination.

    Given these circumstances, we cannot fail to reject it and hereby renew our determination for its banning.

  35. @ Donna. I’ll take that as a compliment!! As it happens we were just given a box of Cadbury’s and as caramel IS my fave, I had one which was quite disgusting, and when I checked it had a caramel FLAVOURED filling. Yuk, the rest went in the bin. I then discovered they were owned by a Frog conglomerate who have clearly sabotaged the recipe.
    Have a good and godly Christmas.

  36. Pachanama,

    I understand your point but are you also going to ban the European blood that flows through the veins of most of us in this part of the world?

    We can’t change who were are. We can only seek to recapture the part of us that was lost.

    And then we can have the best of both worlds!

  37. Donna

    Your narrative leaves out essential ingredients. In any event, santa claus and the people who constructed him, have never conceded to your integrationist rhetoric. To them it will always be misguided.

    First of all, you seem to rely on a false equivalency in comparing the Mother with a mere bastard child.

    Secondly, there is no ‘best of both worlds’ scenario when White people and their systems continue to destroyed the primary conceptions of the sublime and replace them with a relentless service to evil.

    Philosophically, these make your pleadings incongruent.


    So independence, notions of a Caribbean nation and development, then, must only have meanings as defined within the four walls of a White supremacist thinking, Whiteness, which this time of year has been hijacked to mean – the Winter Solstice, is the real meaning. Now that, is a totally different rendering of reality.

  38. “Secondly, there is no ‘best of both worlds’ scenario when White people and their systems continue to destroyed the primary conceptions of the sublime and replace them with a relentless service to evil.”

    It’s a whole lot more complicated than Donna thinks…it is not simple, never was…and the latest devious plans against the black race is even worse and in your face, unfortunately black people do not want to open their eyes, they want to be forever lulled into their comfort zones with delusions and facades.

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