Six-year-long defamation lawsuit brought by Mr. Otuo is almost finalized.
The lawsuit (technically, two lawsuits) was brought in 2013 - 2014 in respect of:
(1) public announcement that "Frank Otuo is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses", and
(2) the following words said in the closed-doors meetings with 4 elders: "So just going back to July of last year when you were disfellowshipped, I think it was July 19 that it was announced to the congregation, is that correct? I think it was … do you… how do [you] view then what you were disfellowshipped for? Do you understand what you were disfellowshipped for? … Just to summarise what I thought you have said, is that even today you would not accept it was fraud … That is what you seem to be saying?"
On 7 June 2019 Richard Spearman (QC), a deputy high court judge, issued a long, 82-pages judgment. Its conclusion read as follows:
In summary, I hold that:
(1) There is no difference between "Scriptural fraud" and "fraud" in other contexts which is material in the particular circumstances of either of these Claims.
(2) The slanders complained of are actionable per se.
(3) Mr Otuo consented to publication of the words complained of in Claim 2.
(4) The publications were made on occasions of qualified privilege.
(5) The defence of qualified privilege is not defeated by malice in either Claim.
(6) It is true that Mr Otuo had been disfellowshipped for fraud.
(7) The decision to disfellowship Mr Otuo was not ultra vires.
(8) Watch Tower Britain did not authorise and is not vicariously liable for the publications.
(9) The Claims do not give rise to unjustifiable interference with Convention rights.
(10) Mr Otuo is not entitled to any relief, and both Claims must be dismissed (not least because neither Claim 1 nor Claim 2 crosses the threshold of seriousness).
It's worth noting that the court previously rejected the plaintiff's innuendo theory that "[t]he innuendo meaning of the words spoken [disfellowshipping announcement] is that, the Claimant has remorselessly engaged in one or more of the following act/s: i. Fraud ii. Paedophilia iii. Theft iv. Adultery v. Fornication vi. Drunkenness". The court stated:
[T]he range of sins which could justify disfellowship is so broad and inclusive that the defamatory meaning is not one that satisfies the consensus requirement. Of course a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses community would be liable to shun a person who had been disfellowshipped for infringing the religious principles to which the members subscribe; but not all of the values that bind together that community are shared by wider society. It cannot, in my judgment, be said that the meaning I have identified is one that would lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking people generally.
I would be grateful for any reasonable correction.