Watch: Embarrassing Bodies' Dr Christian Jessen ordered to pay Arlene Foster £125,000 over defamatory tweet
Embarrassing Bodies star Dr Christian Jessen has been ordered to pay £125,000 in damages to Arlene Foster after a defamatory tweet.
The TV doctor posted an unfounded message on Twitter on 23 December 2019 saying that the Northern Ireland First Minister had been having an extra-marital affair.
The message was retweeted more than 500 times before Dr Jessen deleted it on 7 January 2020.
Delivering judgment at the High Court in Belfast, Mr Justice McAlinden said it was an "outrageous libel" and accepted that the false tweet had cut Foster “to the core”.
He said: “To state that a woman married for 25-and-a-half years and a mother of three children, who is a committed Christian and who is recognised as such, and who has publicly made statements extolling the importance and sanctity of marriage, who also happens to be the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and a holder of the office of first minister of Northern Ireland, was an adulterer, a hypocrite and a homophobe is a most serious libel and is grossly defamatory.
“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 Mrs 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," the judge went on.
“In short, I consider that it was an outrageously bad libel.”
Mr Justice McAlinden continued: “The offending tweet remained on the defendant’s Twitter account for two weeks, a Twitter account with 311,000 followers.
“The tweet was liked approximately 3,500 times and it was retweeted 517 times. The fact that the defendant failed to take down the offending tweet was the subject of mainstream media coverage."
A key issue in the case was Dr Jessen's repeated failure to engage in the legal process.
The 44-year-old did not engage with the legal proceedings until after Foster had already given evidence in court.
The star said he had been previously unaware the case was happening at the High Court.
The doctor previously said he had moved out of his home in London at the time and into his parents’ home, because he was suffering from mental health issues and hadn't been watching the news.
Dr Jessen was ordered to pay damages of £125,000 as well as Foster’s legal costs.
Speaking outside the High Court, Mrs Foster’s solicitor Paul Tweed said he hoped the judgment would be a “watershed” for all women who have been attacked on social media.
The celebrity doctor is best known for the TV shows Embarrassing Bodies and Supersize Vs Superskinny.
He has appeared on other programmes including Ready Steady Cook and The Weakest Link.
With reporting by PA.
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