Embarrassing Bodies star Dr Christian Jessen ordered to pay £125,000 over tweet

Embarrassing Bodies' Dr Christian Jessen has been ordered to pay £125,000 in damages after he made false allegations regarding MP Arlene Foster, accusing her of having an affair.

The celebrity doctor also tweeted "LOL" when put on notice by Arlene Foster’s solicitor in December 2019.

Arlene, who is The Former First Minister of Northern Ireland and MLA for the DUP, claimed the tweet that suggested she had an affair was "categorically untrue".

Dr Jessen has now been ordered by a judge at the High Court in Belfast to pay £125,000 in damages for posting the tweet from his Twitter account.

Arlene has been married for over 25 years and says the tweet caused distress and "deep hurt" to both her and her husband.

The tweet also came out at a time when Arlene was attempting to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

While delivering his judgement on the case, Justice Gerry McAlinden 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."

He continued: "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.

"In short, I consider that it was an outrageously bad libel."

At a previous hearing regarding the case, the court also heard the anguish that was caused to Mrs Foster and her family.

The tweet was also posted two days before Christmas in 2019 which further added to the family's despair.

Not only this, but the offending tweet remained on Dr Jessen's account for two weeks and accumulated numerous retweets and likes.

Mr Gerry McAlinden added: "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.

"This outrageously bad libel cut her (Mrs Foster) to the core, causing her considerable upset, distress, humiliation, embarrassment and hurt.

"Bearing in mind the time of year and the work-related pressures the plaintiff was under at that time, I fully accept this libel took a heavy emotional toll despite her experience of dealing with the heat of robust political debate.

"Her marriage, her family life and her faith are the most important things in her life. These things provide important pillars of support and it was these things that were publicly trashed."

Defamation proceedings were made against Dr Jessen for the offensive tweet on his Twitter account that has more than 300,000 followers.

The judge also believed that timing may have been chosen purposefully to undermine negotiations which concern the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive.

He continued: "I do not ascribe to the defendant the knowledge of, or interest in Northern Ireland politics which would be a prerequisite to giving any detailed consideration to the possibility that the timing of this tweet was intended to influence the outcome of the negotiations.

“However, in respect of the anonymous tweets which preceded the defendant's much more prominent statement, such a motivation cannot be dismissed out of hand.

"Further aggravating features include the tardy response to the letter of claim, the woefully inadequate and deliberately misleading response, the failure to respond to any subsequent respondence, the failure to publish any form of apology or retraction and his failure to make any offer of compensation, which has resulted in the plaintiff being required to give evidence."

Dr Jessen did not enter a defence to the libel actions made against him.

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