Developer to appeal court ruling
By Rachel Afflick
BYRON Bay-based property developer Jerry Bennette's court battle with Greens MP Ian Cohen is far from over.
Mr Bennette will appeal this week's Supreme Court decision that would see him foot the bill for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs racked up during his bid to sue Mr Cohen for defamation.
Justice Ian Harrison on Tuesday awarded the costs in favour of Mr Cohen, saying the defamatory comments made by him in 2001 were protected under the legal defence of qualified privilege.
He also said the ordinary reasonable listener would have understood the defamatory imputations were expressions of opinion.
But Mr Bennette said he believed the reasoning in relation to the defences of qualified privilege and comment was flawed.
"I have instructed my legal advisers to lodge an appeal," Mr Bennette said.
The developer's complaints and the filing of a defamation action stemmed from Mr Cohen's comments during public meetings at the Suffolk Park Progress Hall, staged to raise money for an environmental activist being sued by Mr Bennette at the time.
Mr Bennette wrote to organisers warning them not to stage the first meeting.
He then hired a private investigator to secretly tape both of them before he launched fresh legal action against Mr Cohen.
In 2004, a jury concluded Mr Cohen's speech conveyed the defamatory meaning that Mr Bennette was a thug and a bully who manipulated the system by bringing court proceedings to stifle opposition to his developments.