A court has heard a defamation claim against a Tablelands resident and a Cairns Regional Council councillor “lacks connection to facts”.
“A posse in a lynch mob” that “went after” Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) boss Greg Hallam was the way two defendants in a defamation trial were described earlier this week. Tablelands resident Lyn O’Connor and Councillor Rob Pyne – a former state MP – are representing themselves in a defamation action brought against them by Greg Hallam, the former CEO of the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ).
Mr Hallam is seeking damages over a number of Facebook posts, including a meme depicting Star Wars character Jabba the Hutt wearing an LGAQ T-shirt.
During the trial the court heard Mr Hallam had serious health problems because of the hurt he had suffered, including but not limited to weight gain, increased blood pressure, increased drinking and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
On Wednesday Ms O’Connor summed up her case, dismissing the characterisation of herself and Mr Pyne as a “posse” in a “lynch mob”.
She told the court an ordinary reader would not interpret the Jabba the Hutt cartoon as any more than a physical likeness of Mr Hallam, that Jabba the Hutt as a character had taken on broader use in recent years and a well-known attribute was his size and shape, not that he is criminal or corrupt.
‘No connection to the facts’
Lyn O’Connor submitted the defamation claim had “foundations on assumptions and opinions with no connection to the facts”.
“After nearly five years, huge expense, the case has not demonstrated Mr Hallam’s hypothesis of there being a campaign against Mr Hallam, let alone a claim orchestrated by Mr Pyne or myself,” she told the court.
“Throughout this claim somebody’s prejudices have coloured the facts. Some are more bent up and misaligned than I can comprehend.”
She told the court there was no evidence or demonstration of malice or an orchestrated campaign against Mr Hallam.
“There are parties behind this who have deep relationships, who do have motivation and malice. Some of that is motivated in the background of this claim.
“This is not to say that Mr Hallam has not suffered from the publication,” she told the court. She said there was no evidence of Mr Hallam’s weight gain of 17-18kg because of his increased alcohol consumption.
She quoted psychiatrist Dr Cecily Greaves who gave evidence earlier that she did not believe Mr Hallam had clinical PTSD. Another expert witness told the court Mr Hallam did not have high blood pressure, she said.
“Mr Hallam’s belief that the publications were made in a malicious way are unfounded … I submit there has been no economic loss by Mr Hallam who has continued to work in his position at full pay,” Ms O’Connor said.
“I’m not diminishing Mr Hallam’s hurt and distress, but it is contrived, excessive and an abuse of process,” she submitted to the court.