Dr Christian Jessen ordered to pay £125,000 damages to Arlene Foster after defamatory tweet

‘It is an outrageous libel concerning an individual of considerable standing’

<p>TV medic Dr Christian Jessen leaves Belfast High Court on Friday May 21</p>

TV medic Dr Christian Jessen leaves Belfast High Court on Friday May 21

TV presenter Dr Christian Jessen has been ordered by a judge at the High Court in Belfast to pay damages of £125,000 to Arlene Foster after he libelled her in a tweet.

The former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) sued Dr Jessen for defamation after he made an unfounded claim that she was having an extra-marital affair.

Delivering his judgment at the High Court in Belfast this morning, Mr Justice McAlinden said the tweet had caused Ms Foster “humiliation, embarrassment and hurt.”

He added: “It is an outrageous libel concerning an individual of considerable standing, attacking her integrity at the most fundamental level, and it involves the trashing in a very public fashion of the relationship that Ms Foster holds dearest in her life.

“It affected core aspects of her life, namely her relationship with her husband, her deep Christian faith, it called into question her fitness and suitability to occupy the office of first minister at a time when delicate negotiations were continuing on the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive.”

As well at the £125,000 payout, the TV medic was also ordered to cover Ms Foster’s legal costs for the case she brought against him over a tweet published on December 23, 2019.

The tweet, that was deleted after two weeks, made unfounded claims that Ms Foster, who was DUP leader at the time, was in an adulterous relationship.

Arlene Foster arriving at her offices at Stormont in Belfast in mid-April

Giving evidence last month, Ms Foster said she felt “humiliated” after the celebrity doctor tweeted the unsubstantiated rumour.

Ms Foster told the court the incident came at a particularly stressful time when she was involved in talks to resurrect the power sharing government in the region.

She said she felt the rumour of the affair with a close protection officer, which she described as having emerged online from anonymous accounts before being tweeted by Dr Jessen, was designed to destabilise her at a critical time.

“I think the attack on me personally and my marriage was meant to destabilise me at a very critical time,” she told the court. “It was meant to destabilise me and thereby destabilise the negotiations as well.

"I have no proof of that, but I just think the timing of it is very significant given when it came."

A key issue in the case was the TV doctor's repeated failure to engage in the legal process and respond to papers served on him by Ms Foster's representatives.

Dr Jessen first engaged with the legal proceedings after Ms Foster had already given evidence to the court. He claimed he had been previously unaware the case at Belfast High Court was happening.

He previously told the court that he had moved out of his London city centre flat at the time and into his parents’s home as he was suffering from mental health issues and had not been watching the news.

Additional reporting by PA

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