House of Defamation?

It would have been hard to ignore the promotional build-up and controversy surrounding the recently aired House of Hancock on Channel Nine. Although television dramas often depict real people in fictional stories, the lines were blurred when it came to the broadcast of this mini-series as to what was real and what was fiction when it came to the life and times of Lang Hancock and his daughter Gina.

Following the broadcast of the first episode, Gina commenced proceedings against Channel Nine for defamation and malicious falsehood for her portrayal in the series. Gina alleged that numerous events in the episodes did not occur or were embellished for the television audience and that these embellishments contained defamatory imputations.

A settlement was reached to allow the second episode to broadcast, whereby the Gina was allowed to review the episode and request that certain scenes be removed. Further, Channel Nine agreed to put a disclaimer in the opening credits as to the authenticity of the stories portrayed.

Although all seemed resolved, Gina commenced further proceedings seeking an advance screening of the DVD release and the right to edit or block it’s release. Further, Gina is seeking compensation for the damage to her reputation and the financial losses to her business endeavours as a result.

In Queensland, defamation is governed under the Defamations Act 2005. For an action to be successful in this regard, what must be established as follows:

  • That the matter was defamatory;
  • That the matter referred to or identified the person; and
  • That the matter was published to a person other than the individual claiming defamation.

So what is defamatory?

A matter is defamatory where a reasonable person can identify the imputations as conveying a defamatory meaning, having the effect of:

  • Making ordinary people think less of a person (this includes discrediting a person in his/her trade or profession or business;
  • Causing people to shun or ridicule a person;
  • Causing a person to be excluded from society.

Once a matter is held to be defamatory, the defendant bears the onus of raising and proving a defence. Defences include justification, contextual truth, fair comment or honest opinion, privilege (absolute or qualified), and triviality. The applicability of the various defences to your matter will depend upon the facts and allegations involved.

If you believe you have been defamed, or an allegation of defamation has been made against you, McLaughlins Lawyers is here to assist you and ensure your matter is handled appropriately. As the Gold Coast’s oldest firm, we possess the expertise and history of success that you can count on.