Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Four Days Before Christmas, 2017 - Part 4

Even though I had put the paperwork away until after Christmas, stressful thoughts invaded my mind every hour of every day. I thought about the way I was treated when the Exclusive Brethren took my mother from the UK to Australia, against her will (written about earlier in this blog), and I wondered if this organisation has a personal grudge against me. After all, it wasn’t only my name that was on the Contact Us form; there was also the Sun reporter’s email address. Yet it appeared that he was not also being pursued. This caused me to question whether bitterness towards me was the real motivation behind this defamation case against me.

On 27 December I returned to the Statement of Claim and went over it again and again. The Plaintiff alleged that I made the Contact Us form entry on a company website. I don’t know much about this sort of thing at all, but I’m pretty sure that there would have been a digital footprint left by the computer which had made the entry, by way of an IP address. This could surely have been traced by the website hosting company (or perhaps even by the police, especially given the nature of the alleged content) and if this were possible, it could probably have easily been established that the IP address that made the defamatory entry was not that of my computer. I thought this would have been the very first port of call, before issuing proceedings against me. This is certainly how I would have dealt with the matter, had I received a malicious entry on a website.

Then there was the alleged posting of the defamatory material at a post office on 18 December 2017, at, or around 6pm. In the UK this would have been 7am on the same day, and I would have been getting ready to start my day at home, in the UK. I was not in Australia at this time.

I wondered how the Plaintiff had come to know that the alleged defamatory material had been received and read by some of the local residents. Had a neighbour perhaps told him what had been received? Had the Plaintiff received a copy as well? I was curious to know.

I was now in a most unenviable situation. It seemed to me that hasty assumptions on the part of the Plaintiff had led to unsubstantiated allegations, without any proper investigation being carried out. It was obvious on several counts that the material was not instigated by me, and the Plaintiff had no firm foundation on which to base his allegations. This then begged the question: why on earth did the lawyer take it on? What sort of lawyer would take on a case such as this on the say-so of their client, with no evidence? Was this even ethical? If this is deemed good practice, then surely one person can accuse another of anything they like and take them to court, just on a whim. 

The first letter had advised that I was guilty of a criminal offence and that the police were investigating.

But, isn’t defamation a civil offence, not criminal? I decided to telephone Australian police in the relevant town; I told them that I understood an investigation was being carried out, in which I was apparently named, and that I wished to fully comply as I was an innocent party. The officer confirmed that, a) defamation was not a criminal matter, but a civil matter, dealt with through the courts, and, b) that they had nothing listed in either my name, the pseudonym the Plaintiff was sheltering behind, or the Plaintiff’s actual name.  The fact that the police said that they had no knowledge of investigating this case caused me to question the reference to a police investigation in the letter.

Apart from the fact that he is a member of the Exclusive Brethren, I know nothing about the Plaintiff and have no interest in him. I have no idea if the allegations are true or false and I have no interest in finding out. What I did know was that Plaintiff did not want to be identified. He used a pseudonym to protect his name, but dragged mine through the Australian court system, despite having no hard evidence against me. Some may say that by accusing me like this of perpetrating the defamatory material, the Plaintiff actually defamed me!

........Tomorrow: Instructing lawyers in both hemispheres, and a bizarre twist.

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