Wednesday 5 March 2008

Freebody, Cairns Post in defamation case

Division 4 Unity candidate in Cairns Regional Council election and Cairns City Councillor Paul Freebody, along with the Cairns Post, are before a jury trial this week in the Cairns District Court to respond to defamation charges.

It is believed this is the first defamation case bought before a Queensland Court in more than five years.

Councillor Freebody, along with the Cairns Post, has been called to account by Cairns businessmen John Page and Greg Lennon, who alledge they have been defamed.

PHOTO John Page and Greg Lennon pictured at the Cairns District Court yesterday.

Page and Lennon, along with Freebody and others, were members of a racing syndicate in 2003. However, following the dissolution of the syndicate and the sale of a racehorse, Page and Lennon were embroiled in a Queensland Racing Appeals Tribunal, which suggested impropriety.

At the time of the original altercation, they were the Cairns Jockey Club Vice President and Auditor.

The long-running dispute between Councillor Freebody might have come to an end following the pair's acquittal in late October 2004, when the Queensland Racing Board Appeal Tribunial dropped all charges, including the $15,000 fine, against Page and Lennon (see "Appeal clears Racing figures" - Cairns Post 20th Oct 2004).

A few days after the acquittal, that was reported in the Post on 21st October 2004, the Cairns Post published a letter from Cr Freebody (see letter "Two caught up by association"). It is alledged that this arrived at the Cairns Post on the Councillor's letterhead and was signed "Councillor Paul Freebody":

“I congratulate Mr Lennon and Mr Page on being acquitted - the penalty for their part in false statutory declarations may have been harsh."

"Maybe John and Greg just got caught up by association,” Cr Paul Freebody wrote on the 26th October.

“The lesson is the old saying ‘if you sleep with dogs you get fleas.

The other good things to come out of this long investigation into corruption into racing syndicates is that many people have told me that their syndicate managers have lifted their acts of accountability since the Four Win syndicate scam was exposed.”

Page and Lennon alledge they were defamed and their reputation significantly affected by the publication of the letter.

The trial continues this morning at 9:30am, Cairns District Court, Level 4, Courtroom 3, flooding /weather dependant.

Cairns District Court running sheet
Page, J. v Queensland Racing [2004] QRAT 40 (22 September 2004)
Lennon, G. v Queensland Racing [2004] QRAT 39 (23 September 2004)

Lennon, G. v Queensland Racing [2004] QRAT 37 (22 October 2004)

NB: As this trial is currently in progress, CairnsBlog will not allow any debate, until it concludes. This is expected to be Friday.

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