Not a good day for Perth Now in the Federal Court last week: Justice Michael Barker found the site contravened the Racial Discrimination Act when it published four comments in 2008 after four Aboriginal boys died in a car crash near Pinjarra.
One of the comments: You can post as many comment as you like but it wont [sic] change anything untill [sic] the law makers of this land get off thier [sic] fat a## and get out of thier [sic] ivory towers and start dealing out real punishment to the low life instead of the 5 star treatment they get in prison they get 3 squares aday [sic] tv computer clean beds there are lots of holes in [Kalgoorlie I would use these scum as land fill’ [Comment 29 of 114 posted by Jack Reacher of 9:49am July 11, 2008].
Justice Barker gave Perth Now a sustained spray after a Perth Now lawyer said the author was “obviously not intending his comment to be taken literally … It is just a turn of phrase”.
“In my view, this comment does not leave anything to the imagination,” Justice Barker said. “I have no hesitation in finding that this latter expression, in the context of all the commentary on the website up to that point, and in the context of words used in the comment itself would be read by the reasonable reader as including the Aboriginal boys who had died in the car crash. Any other reading would be contrived and artificial. While ‘low life’ are deserving of ‘real punishment’, ‘these scum’ deserve to be used ‘as land fill’. The expression ‘these scum’ may refer to all ‘low life’ but it should particularly be taken to include the deceased Aboriginal boys. The word ‘scum’ is used here in its most pejorative way. The relevant definition of ‘scum’ in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is ‘worthless, despicable people; the most contemptible part of the population of a place, society etc’. This is exactly what the comment conveys. The boys are considered to be so despicable they should be used to fill a disused mineshaft near Kalgoorlie – that is to say, disposed of without trace. This comment is so deeply offensive, insulting and humiliating that it is breathtaking. For the respondent to suggest it was not meant to be taken literally and should be treated as ‘just a turn of phrase’ is, to say the least, unacceptable.”
Justice Barker awarded the mother of three of the boys $12,000 and said Perth Now had to remove the comments.
I can’t see the judgement online: perhaps someone can provide a link. (Link courtesy Andrew). Justice Barker has plenty more to say about Perth Now and its readers. I haven’t seen the judgement covered on a News Ltd site. Perhaps it will be in today’s Sunday Times.
Moderating those comments is so time-consuming!
Justice Barker said pre-judgement interest and costs will be discussed on Wednesday.