Healthcare activist Esther Rockett sued for defamation by alleged cult leader Serge Benhayon
Esther Rockett, our client, was a Byron Bay-based acupuncturist and healthcare activist. She curated several blogs and Twitter accounts. She used these as she campaigned for stronger protection of healthcare patients against exploitation.
In 2004, Rockett attended a variety of events run by a new-age healthcare business, Universal Medicine, headed by Serge Benhayon. A former tennis coach, and now self-styled “complementary medicine practitioner”, Benhayon practiced hands-on “healing” techniques (comparable to a massage). He also taught a variety of new-age religious and philosophical mantras, under the umbrella term of Esoteric Healing.
After attending these events, including a “healing session”, Rockett formed the view that Benhayon was leading a cult. From 2012 onwards, she began to investigate him and Universal Medicine, reporting her findings on her blog sites and Twitter.
Rockett’s posts alleged that Universal Medicine and Benhayon:
- engaged in sexual predation and sexual abuse;
- that the business’s practitioners were encouraged to touch clients on their breasts, genitals and anus, and to touch the genitals of victims of sexual assault;
- that Benhayon had indecently touched her during a “healing” session;
- that Benhayon had an indecent sexual interest in young children;
- and ultimately, that Benhayon was a delusional and exploitative leader of a generally nefarious “cult”, preying on cancer patients and dishonestly promoting ideas of karma for self-gain.
In response, Benhayon commenced defamation proceedings against her in the NSW Supreme Court (Darlinghurst) in 2018. He was suing in regard to 21 separate publications by Esther Rockett. Subsequently, Rockett hired O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors to defend her.
The trial by jury went for six weeks. The questions for the jury and the court revolved around whether our client’s allegations were true, and if other legal defences beyond “the defence of truth” were available to her.
Esther Rockett successfully defends defamation law suit and wins legal costs
Ultimately, our client was successful. The jury found that all 21 publications were not defamatory, and that the majority of imputations stated by our client in her blog posts were true.
For the remaining allegations, other legal defences of:
- “honest opinion”,
- “contextual truth”
- and “statutory qualified privilege”
were successfully made out. The court subsequently awarded Rockett the costs of her legal fees, and Rockett reached a private settlement with Benhayon.
O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors are able to pursue your possible claim anywhere in Australia. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today on 02 9261 4281 or by email at
Keywords: defamation, defamation defences, healthcare activist, blog post, healthcare cult, publication criticising indecent sexual practices, Supreme Court of NSW