Damages reduced in ex-mayor defamation case

THE long-running defamation case against Laurel Lloyd-Jones been heard in District Court once more, with a reduction in the amount of damages she is to pay.

In 2009, Ms Lloyd-Jones was sued by then-mayor Tony Allen for defamation over statements she made in a letter to the Premier.

She also sent the letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, ABC and 17 members of an action group known as the Committee for Reconciliation and Justice.

The letter referred to events in Bermagui and in part criticised Cr Allen’s behaviour leading up to and during a meeting with a family in Bermagui in 2006.

As a result of a hearing in 2010, Judge Colefax found Ms Lloyd-Jones had conveyed four false and defamatory imputations about Cr Allen in the letter and ordered her to pay $50,000 in general damages plus $15,000 in aggravated damages.

Ms Lloyd-Jones appealed to the Supreme Court in 2012, which upheld the decision on two of the four imputations, but sent the other two imputations back to the District Court to be reconsidered along with the amount of damages to be awarded to Cr Allen.

Those imputations were:

* The plaintiff, the Mayor of Bega Valley Shire, conducted himself inappropriately as Mayor in that he bullied a woman; and

* The plaintiff intimidated a woman by acting in a bullying and overpowering manner over the phone.

The hearing in the District Court was held over three days in March this year with the determination handed down on April 17.  

Judge Gibson determined Ms Laurel Lloyd-Jones succeeded in her defence of justification to both imputations – meaning the judge found both imputations were true.

Judge Gibson reassessed the damages to be awarded from the two imputations that were not part of her hearing in light of her decision that the two other imputations were true. 

She awarded Cr Allen $6000 damages and rejected his claim for aggravated damages.