Wendy Hatfield still has to wait and see

I have written before about Wendy Hatfield and her attempts to get to see in advance of the broadcast by way of preliminary discovery episodes of the impending TV series Underbelly III, which she expects (on good grounds) will defame her. That application was rejected by Justice Harrison.

On 8 April, an appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed [2010] NSWCA 69.

Basically, the Court of Appeal held that Harrison J had made quite a lot of mistakes, including (on a quick reading) in relation to Royal Commission transcript and what you have to establish to come within the rule for preliminary discovery. However, when it came to the exercise of discretion to award preliminary discovery, the court decided that it would not have exercised the discretion to award preliminary discovery any differently (and it is a discretion, not an order made of right). This was because the utility of preliminary discovery was in order to attempt to gain an interlocutory injunction to prevent the defamation and the usual free speech issues (amongst other things: there was also the question of an undertaking as to damages though this was probably not determinative) would have precluded such an injunction being granted.

Rather comically, but perhaps predictably, Justice McColl had less sympathy for Ms Hatfield than either Sackville or Young JJA, the latter displaying just a little gallantry on behalf of Hatfield in the following passage:

130 However, one point did seem to emerge from what was said and not said in submissions from the respondents’ camp. It would seem that the program makers did not feel sufficiently confident to portray the primary male figure as a gangster and criminal, but felt that it was open slather to cast dirt upon the relatively defenceless woman appellant, a retired member of the police service, because it thought it had a defence of truth because of what occurred at the Wood Royal Commission.

3 Responses to “Wendy Hatfield still has to wait and see”

  1. Wendy Hatfield has to wait and see « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] On 8/4/10 an appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed. See subsequent brief post here (originally a mere post-postscript to this […]

  2. Celebrity and the law « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] Of course, that is not always the case, or you might perhaps say that there are cases, such as Wendy Hatfield, of reluctant […]

  3. One law for the rich | Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] orders for preliminary discovery concerning that series. The judge held (and the Court of Appeal upheld) that she had to wait and see and get damages afterwards if she was defamed (which she […]

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