Judge rejects barrister's claim for $2m damages

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2006, 12:00am

Barrister Stephen Yam Chi-ming has failed in his bid to win $2 million damages for a report in a Chinese-language newspaper that was found to have defamed him.

Mr Yam sued Sing Pao Newspaper Company after it ran a report in December 2004 quoting him as saying that he knew a District Court judge did not have jurisdiction to rule on a certain matter before he applied for just such a ruling.

The damages case hinged on a phone interview one of the paper's reporters, now dead, said she had with the barrister. She claimed she had phoned him on the day of the ruling and asked if he knew the judge had no jurisdiction, to which he had answered in the affirmative - a fact she included in her story for the following day.

Mr Yam denied the phone conversation took place.

Mr Justice Anthony To Kwai-fung said yesterday the statements carried in the story were defamatory but fell into the category of honest opinion based on accurate reporting of the conversation.

There was no malice and the newspaper had satisfied the defence of fair comment.

Mr Yam's application for damages in the Court of First Instance was dismissed as any loss of business was trivial, and he was ordered to meet his own costs.