Local newspaper published article against former Liberal MP
In 2016 a local newspaper Benalla Ensign published an article alleging that former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella had “pushed” her political opponent, MP Cathy McGowan, out of a photo opportunity with MP Ken Wyatt at a nursing home. Mrs Mirabella approached the newspaper, Ms McGowan and Mr Wyatt at the time to clear her name. They did not provide any assistance and so she resorted to making a defamation claim.
Jury finds in favour of Mrs Mirabella
Her defamation case was heard before a jury in Wangaratta County Court. The jury heard numerous instances of the Benalla Ensign article being shared on Twitter, along with insults directed at Mrs Mirabella. It was argued that the false statement in the article caused her reputational harm, and that it allowed Ms McGowan to cause her political disadvantage. After a five day trial and a 45 minute deliberation, the jury found that Benalla Ensign had defamed Mrs Mirabella by publishing the article. The Court awarded her $175,000 in damages.
Mrs Mirabella’s case shows us that truthful reporting is important because it can affect the reputation of the person contained in the article. Untrue statements can result in unwarranted criticism, and in the case of a politician, can affect the success of their political campaign.
Everyday people can be defamed
Defamation claims are not simply reserved for well-known people like politicians or actors. Given the large amount of content disseminated through media channels, everyday people can have false allegations made about them too – from media outlets, colleagues or even their friends. Of course, everyday people might not have the sufficient funds to run a successful defamation case especially if it is against giants such as media outlets. This is where O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors come in. In some instances, we run defamation cases on a no-win, no-fee basis depending on the prospects of the case.
If you believe that you have had false statements made about you which have caused you reputational harm, speak to our defamation solicitor for legal advice. Contact us on (02) 9261 4281.