LAWS1114 T7 Preparation

Provide advice in respect of each of the following. Do not consider any defences.

Question 1

Ed posts a statement on a rugby league web blog operated by John in the following terms: ‘Queensland is fat, unfit and incompetent to compete on the National stage. It’s a joke.’ Ray is a member of the Queensland team, takes pride in his fitness and is greatly angered by the posting.
NB: See Boyd v Mirror News [1980] 2 NSWLR 449.

Is it published: Yes, published onto a website – potentially large audience, though unless it’s exceptionally popular, significantly smaller than a national or even state wide broadcast.

Does it refer to the plaintiff: Ray is not identified specifically, but is a member of a fairly small team that is directly identified. Given the comparatively small size, its highly likely that the class will be held specifically narrow to include Ray. (Bjelke-Petersen v Warburton)

Is it capable of being defamatory: Boyd suggests that imputations of obesity can be defamatory if they imply that the player is unfit and unable to play football properly, which seems to be the gist of the defamatory statement here.

Ignoring defences, there is certainly prima facie defamation here, and it would make it to the jury.

Question 2

A newspaper article is headed ‘Suspicion Casts Ugly shadow over Council’. It includes a statement to the effect that ‘all members of Johnsborough Council have been suspended from their positions and are currently under investigation by the police after it came to light last week that someone on the council has yet again been taking bribes for favours’. Maureen is a council member. She was convicted of defrauding public funds some years ago.

Is it published: Yes, it’s in the newspaper

Does it refer to the plaintiff: It refers to a small class of council members, of which Maureen is one – Given the comparatively small size of the class, it is highly likely that the class will be held specifically narrow to include Maureen. (Bjelke-Petersen v Warburton) The fact that it mentions ‘again’ suggests that true innuendo is also relevant, as someone with knowledge of Maureen’s past conviction would identify her here. (Radio 2UE Sydney v Chesterton)

Is it capable of being defamatory: Accusations of corruption, or even reminders of corruption, would certainly reduce her status in the eyes of ‘right-thinking’ members of the community.

Ignoring defences, there is certainly prima facie defamation here, and it would make it to the jury.

Question 3

Ahmed tells the congregation at his local mosque that Julia, a devout Moslem, refuses to obey her husband and does not wear a head scarf in public. Julia is ejected from the mosque and shunned by her community.

Is it published: Almost certainly – publication merely requires making the opinion available to someone other than the plaintiff, which certainly occurred here.

Does it refer to the plaintiff: If he identified her by name or implication, as seems to be the case, then yes, it did.

Is it capable of being defamatory: One could argue that ‘right-thinking’ members of the community would not think less of a woman for not wearing a head scarf in public or obeying her husband. However an analogy could be drawn to the discussion of professional reputation, where her moslem reputation has been damaged.

I’d say the facts indicate that the statement has led to damage to her reputation, suggesting that it is capable of defamatory, and should be heard by a jury.

Question 4

Rick is a rock star. His agent, John, books him to give a concert in Brisbane on 14 June. In error, John also double-books him to give a concert in Sydney on the same day. On 1 June, John accordingly publishes an unauthorised advertisement in a Brisbane newspaper claiming (falsely) that Rick is seriously ill and will be unable to give the Brisbane concert. On 7 June, he places an advertisement for the Sydney concert in the same newspaper.

Is it published: It is published in the newspaper.

Does it refer to the plaintiff: It specifically identifies him.

Is it capable of being defamatory: Individually, neither advertisement would be defamatory, but taken together there is the imputation that Rick is a liar and does not care for his Brisbane based fans. I believe this would have the potential to damage his reputation.