Man fails to prove police defamation

A SUSPECTED child predator, who was banned from the Lismore PCYC for allegedly trying to take part in a girls' gymnastics class, has failed in his bid to sue the NSW Police Force for defamation.

Benjamin Giovannetti was stripped of his gym membership after police checks revealed he was flagged for alleged incidents that suggested he may have been trying to "infiltrate" youth events in the Lismore region.

The NSW Supreme Court heard police were concerned he may be "mentally challenged", with the word "pedophile" used along with the suggestion he "stalks female children/adolescents" and that his behaviour at youth events should be monitored.

Records on the database described Mr Giovannetti as "being infatuated by a young woman" who was a neighbour in 2008.

A complaint was made by a 14-year-old girl at Crankfest, who alleged Mr Giovannetti rubbed her thigh and asked for her phone number.

In the same year an off-duty police officer noted Mr Giovannetti driving slowly past a Casino high school and "very obviously ogling" students.

The police checks followed an incident in September 2010 after Mr Giovannetti had signed up as a member at the PCYC.

A worker told police she became concerned when she noticed Mr Giovannetti walking up the stairs to watch a girls' gymnastics class. She said she told him the class was for children and their parents but he became agitated and said he wanted to join in.

A senior female Lismore police officer decided to terminate Mr Giovannetti's membership.

Mr Giovannetti claimed the police had defamed him by labelling him an "extreme risk" to children.

Justice Simpson found that while she didn't accept Mr Giovannetti's version of events, she also couldn't accept the events occurred as described on the COPS database.

She accepted the state defence that the allegations were trivial, dismissed the claim and ordered Mr Giovannetti to pay the court's costs.



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