Abortion clinic sues to remove anti-choice protesters

Melbourne’s Fertility Control Clinic is suing the city council for failing to remove protesters from outside its premises. Maurice Blackburn solicitor Lizzie O’Shea explained she would be “asking the court to make an order in mandamus, or perform a duty imposed by law”. Specifically, “[u]nder section 60 [of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008], a council has a duty to remedy as far as is reasonably possible all nuisances existing in its municipal district. The definition of nuisance includes activities that are dangerous to health.” The applicants will argue that the health of patients and staff is harmed by harrassment by the anti-choice protesters, who have been picketing the site for a decade.

ABC “dogf—er” defamation case to proceed

The NSW Supreme Court will allow a jury to decide whether the ABC’s “Chaser Boys” defamed political commentator Chris Kenny by displaying a photoshopped image of him having sex with a dog. The comedians claim the segment was satire, and was a legitimate response to Kenny’s frequent criticism of the ABC. Justice Beech-Jones did not accept that anyone would believe that Kenny had actually engaged in the act, but he did accept that “the image was such a massively disproportionate response … that it is capable of conveying that Mr Kenny is, in a general sense, a contemptible and disgusting person.” It will now be for a jury to decide whether that was actually conveyed. The Prime Minister has suggested the ABC should apologise and settle the case, but human rights professor Sarah Joseph believes it is an important test case to determine the legal boundaries of satire.

Cardinal says Church should be suable

The former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he no longer supports the Catholic Church’s position that it could not be sued: “Whatever position was taken by the lawyers during the litigation, or by lawyers or individuals within the Archdiocese following the litigation, my own view is that the Church in Australia should be able to be sued in cases of this kind.” Cardinal Pell was in charge of the Archdiocese of Sydney when it ran what is now known as “the Ellis defence”. In Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church v Ellis [2007] NSWCA 117, the NSW Court of Appeal held that because priests were not employees, the Church was not vicariously liable for their actions. This effectively means that individual priests can be sued, but the Church can not—which diminishes the ability of victims of child sexual abuse to obtain compensation.

Smoke not harmful enough for class action

Smoke from a fire in a coal mine near the town of Morwell has caused residents “sore eyes, sore throats, and shortness of breath”. About 70 people have approached lawyers about the possibility of a negligence class action, due to concerns about the mining company’s handling of the fire. However, lawyers say a successful personal injury claim would require “total impairment of over 5 per cent and most people aren’t going to get that. You might have sore eyes and a sore throat for six months but it won’t add up to over 5 per cent.” Claims by businesses for smoke damage and lost income might be open.