Hughes pleased with outcome of defamation case

Ted Hughes has won his civil suit against former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm.

Ted Hughes has won his civil suit against former B.C. Premier Bill Vander Zalm.

A jury has ruled that passages within Vander Zalm’s memoirs are defamatory to B.C.’s former conflict of interest commissioner.

“I’m very gratified with the attention and the care that the jury gave to the matter,” said Hughes, reached by phone Friday morning. “I’ve been in the justice system for over 60 years. This is the first experience that I’ve had seeing it operate from the other side and I’m obviously very pleased and satisfied with the outcome.”

The nine-day hearing at the Vancouver Law Courts wrapped up Thursday.

Vander Zalm published Bill Vander Zalm For the People in 2008.

Hughes filed his civil suit with the Supreme Court in late 2010.

In response to the jury’s verdict, Vander Zalm complained to other media that Hughes didn’t sue him until seeing his fight-the-HST campaign on a television program.

Hughes, however, defended his timing.

“What (Vander Zalm) doesn’t say, which came clearly out in court, that on the TV program with respect to the HST, his book was prominently featured as available on that program,” said Hughes. “It was there for the public to know it could be purchased, containing what the court has now found to be defamatory remarks about me.”

In his statement of claim, Hughes charges “the defendant falsely and maliciously published … (statements that were) understood to mean that the plaintiff was self-interested, biased and politically partisan in conducting the Fantasy Gardens Inquiry.”

In his filed response, Vander Zalm argued “all of the comments would be understood by a reasonable person as comments and not imputations of fact.”

The jury, however, disagreed.

The defamatory passages refer back to an inquiry Hughes conducted in 1991. It concluded that Vander Zalm, as premier, had violated conflict-of-interest guidelines and it led to his immediate resignation.

The jury recommended Vander Zalm pay $60,000 in damages to Hughes.