Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster has filed a court claim against TV doctor Christian Jessen for defamation.
Dr Christian, famed for his involvement in Channel 4 programmes including Embarrassing Bodies, tweeted an allegation that Mrs Foster has been having an affair whilst married. This tweet was published on 23 December 2019, and remained accessible online until it was deleted on 07 January 2020.
The claim was considered by the High Court in Belfast with only Mrs Foster attending. Addressing the claim to the Court, Mrs Foster denied that she has had an extra-marital affair with a bodyguard. When the tweet was published, Mrs Foster confirmed that she first became aware of it through her director of communications who brought it to her attention.
She states that the tweet was “an attack on me personally and my marriage, meant to destabilise me at a very critical time” and was a very difficult situation to discuss with her husband.
Dr Christian, with over 300,000 followers on Twitter, initially refused to delete the tweet which had been retweeted over 500 times, and only did so in January reluctantly confirming in correspondence that it was not an admission of liability.
Due to the wording used in the tweet, mentioning the ’sanctity of marriage’, it is believed that the tweet was sent in retaliation for Mrs Foster views on same-sex marriage, though this hasn’t been confirmed by Jessen.
Mrs Foster confirmed with the court that no apology has been given and Dr Christian has failed to respond to 13 separate approaches by email and letter.
The Court has not yet issued a decision but has confirmed it will deal with the matter urgently.
Check back to the reading room for further updates. If you would like to discuss a defamation or harassment, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team today.