Friday, August 19, 2016

A Facebook post that destroyed a former deputy principal's life has now cost the poster $150,000

No free speech protection attaches to defamation

Before the Facebook post, former deputy principal Kenneth Rothe, 74, enjoyed his life running two small seaside motels with his wife and caring for his grandchildren.

Afterwards, Mr Rothe was the subject of a brutal bashing that left him hospitalised for six months and his family were so scared they moved interstate.

Now a NSW District Court judge has forced the man who wrote the defamatory Facebook post to pay $150,000 in damages.

"Pedophile [sic] warning:- Nambucca has been used as a relocation for these monsters – blue dolphin –nirvana hotel and above the Indian restaurant! …Bus stops are right out front of theses hotels for our children?"

Mr Rothe was the owner of the Blue Dolphin Motel and Nirvana Village Motel and a rental apartment in Nambucca Heads on the state's mid north coast.

He sometimes offered crisis accommodation for people fleeing family disputes but emphatically denied he ever housed ex-prisoners or paedophiles under any agreement.

A "devastated" and "distressed" Mr Rothe begged Mr Scott for a retraction and an apology but neither was given to him.

Instead his life was seriously threatened – twice.

Mr Rothe told the court that just before the first assault someone said to him, "Are you the Blue Dolphin paedophile?" 

People started making anonymous phone calls to the motel, some asking for sex, and the Nambucca Valley Crime Information Facebook page republished the allegations.

Judge Judith Gibson found that Mr Rothe was an upright member of the north coast community who ran his businesses in accordance with the law.

"This Facebook attack was made on him out of the blue, with no prior inquiry of any kind by any person," Judge Gibson said. "It has had a devastating effect on him," she said.

"It would be fair to say that the publication of the matter complained of has destroyed the plaintiff's wellbeing as well as his peace of mind."

Judge Gibson found there was no factual basis to Mr Scott's claims, he was an "unimpressive witness"  and he had made no attempt to verify the information he had heard from others prior to posting his rant.



Bird of Paradise said...

May the scumbag who said these nasty thing receive a kick in the backside award for being a idiot

Anonymous said...

Not enough money, the victim deserves to be fully compensated for what was done to him. Perhaps a reverse class action should be taken against all those who contributed to the victims misery.

Spurwing Plover the Fighting Shorebird said...

Open mouth insert foot