Readers will recall that in December 2008 we reported on
A$350,000 in damages awarded to former cyclist Mark French in his
case against radio station Triple M for defamatory comments to the
effect that he was a drug cheat and an "un-Australian"
see previous article).
In his latest victory, Mr French was last week awarded A$175,000
against The Herald and Weekly Times for material that appeared in
The Herald Sun in August 2004.
The lesser award may be attributable to the fact that Mr French
proved defamatory meanings were conveyed in only one of the two
articles complained of, and also because Mr French abandoned a
claim for exemplary damages early in the proceedings.
Justice Beach found some "force" in the suggestion
that it was difficult to determine exactly how much impact the
particular publication of 10 August 2004 had on the reputation of
Mr French, but accepted that its printing had "caused the
plaintiff not insignificant upset". He determined that
vindication was the main consideration relevant to an award of
damages in this situation. With this in mind, his Honour found that
the publication's circulation figures were less relevant here
than in other scenarios.
Mr French's latest action was decided under the law in place
prior to the Defamation Act 2005 (Act). As of 30 June 2009, the
maximum damages for non-economic loss available under the Act
stands at A$294,500. It has previously been observed that the
damages "cap" may not be meeting public expectations and
inadequate judicial discretion for penalties; however Mr
French's latest award would have fallen comfortably within the
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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