A ruling yesterday in the Supreme Court of New South Wales saw blogger Shane Dowling sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for contempt of court, following his refusal to obey a court order to remove defamatory material from his blog, Kangaroo Court of Australia.
For example, Mr Dowling (who frames his defamatory practices as “fighting corruption”) “deliberately and enthusiastically disobeyed court orders” in a style reminiscent of Sabine McNeill, Neelu Berry, and Angela Power-Disney.
In yesterday’s judgement, Harrison J noted:
On 21 December 2016, Campbell J made orders, including that Mr Dowling remove the names of Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 from his 21 December 2016 article and that he not further publish certain imputations about them. Mr Dowling has been aware of these orders since 21 December 2016. In breach of the orders, Mr Dowling left the 21 December 2016 article online without removing the names of Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. He also published further articles in breach of the orders.
Since 15 March 2017, the offending publications have all remained online, and the names of Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 have not been removed from any of them. Moreover, Mr Dowling has made further relevant publications. For present purposes, it is sufficient to refer to a publication made by him as recently as 15 July 2017 on his website, which included the following material:
“Another key issue is that the media have named the women involved in the AFL scandal immediately with their pictures and backgrounds everywhere. So why didn’t the media name the four women [Jane Doe 1], [Jane Doe 2], [Jane Doe 3] and [Jane Doe 4] who allegedly had sexual relationships with Seven CEO Tim Worner before the dodgy suppression order was taken out?”
The italicised words contained a hyperlink to an earlier article, which also named (and continues to name) Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. Even the preliminary publication of my 15 March 2017 judgment to the parties for checking led Mr Dowling further to defy the authority of this Court, first by publishing the unredacted reasons on his website, even though they were still subject to restriction, and secondly by maintaining online links to that version even after publication of the final, more restricted version.
This has the ring of familiarity: despite restraining orders issued as a result of their online behaviour, we’ve watched as Sabine and others have blithely and deliberately breached those orders again and again; as well, they’ve failed to remove existing blog and social media posts in which they’ve named various innocent parties as “cult members”, paedophiles, murderers, and cannibals.
Referring to the importance of a timely and proportionate response to contempt of court, Harrison J stated:
“Although the primary purpose in committing a defendant who disobeys an injunction is to enforce the injunction for the benefit of the plaintiff, another purpose is to protect the effective administration of justice by demonstrating that the court’s orders will be enforced. As the authors of Borrie and Lowe’s Law of Contempt, 2nd ed (1983) say, at 3:
If a court lacked the means to enforce its orders, if its orders could be disobeyed with impunity, not only would individual litigants suffer, the whole administration of justice would be brought into disrepute.” …
It is a very serious matter where a person disobeys a Court order knowing the Court has made it. If that conduct went unpunished by the Courts, a fundamental aspect of our society would suffer. Other people would come to think that they also could disobey or flout orders that a Court had made. The rule of law would be seriously undermined were such a situation left unpunished. Justice could not be done satisfactorily if the ordinary respect that members of our society have for the authority of the Courts to resolve disputes, as a part of our system of government, came to be undermined by persons openly disobeying Court orders…
We’re reminded of Sabine and Ella’s open flouting of the court orders served upon them in February 2015, as well as of Tracey Morris’ bragging in an interview with Angela Power-Disney that the injunction she was served in August 2015, when she was ordered not to discuss the Hampstead SRA hoax in public or online, was “not worth the paper it was written on”.
Sadly, the inaction of our court system has proven Tracey absolutely correct.
We’ve referred in the past to the strange unwillingness of the MET to take timely and definitive action against the Hoaxtead mobsters in the early days of the hoax. Whatever the reason for that inertia, the message was sent and received, loud and clear: anybody wishing to defame or harass RD or other parents of children attending Christ Church Primary School was quite welcome to do so. They’d face no legal consequences whatsoever.
As things stand currently, Sabine pleaded guilty last October to one charge of breach of her restraining order; since then she has been interviewed by the police several times, but no further charges have been laid to our knowledge.
Tracey Morris has publicly stated her contempt for the court order served upon her, and has on several occasions been heard publicly violating its terms. However, she has not, to our knowledge, faced any legal consequences.
People like Deborah Mahmoudieh, Angela Power-Disney, and others have continued to promote the Hampstead hoax enthusiastically…and have been untouched by the law.
What are we to make of this?
In light of the Australian court’s firm handling of a case in which the internet was used as a weapon to harm the lives and reputations of several people, we have to say that our own courts’ utter lack of action, decisive or otherwise, is disheartening to say the least.