Defamation – defence of absolute privilege

A recent defamation Court judgment caught our attention. 

In Ogbonna v CTI Logistics Ltd the court was asked to determine whether the issuing of a judgment containing the defamatory words (in an email) and the subsequent publication of that judgment in the public Austlii database amounted to republication, exposing the defendants to a claim for damages for defamation.  

The court found that the judgment was published in circumstances of absolute privilege (s27 Defamation Act) by Austlii under the protection of s28(1) Defamation Act, which says:

It is a defence to the publication of defamatory matter if the defendant proves that the matter was contained in –

(a) a public document or a fair copy of a public document; or

(b) a fair summary of, or a fair extract from, a public document.

A judgment is therefore not capable of being regarded as republication of the original defamation complained of and does not give rise to a further claim by the plaintiff against the defendants.  A victory for common sense.  The Court observed: 

“Were the position to be otherwise, no successful defamation action would ever be concluded, the publication of the decision being a republication of the original defamation giving rise to a further claim and so on and so on.” 

Cove Legal specialises in resolving legal disputes with particular expertise in bringing and defending defamation claims.  Principal Roger Blow is recognised as a media law expert, particularly in liability arising from the use of social media.  He regularly provides commentary concerning media law issues to television, radio stations and newspapers.

Roger Blow

P: +61 8 6381 0326 or e:

This publication is not intended to provide and does not provide legal advice. You should seek professional legal advice relating to your specific situation(s) before taking any action based upon its contents.