Shock claims backfire on Alan Jones in largest defamation payout in Aussie history

Written on the 12 September 2018 by Paris Faint

Shock claims backfire on Alan Jones in largest defamation payout in Aussie history

Controversial radio star Alan Jones has failed to defend the defamatory claims he made surrounding the 2011 Grantham floods, resulting in Australia's largest ever defamation payout of $3.75 million in damages.

The Sydney shock jock and broadcaster for 2GB and 4BC radio was found to have defamed the Wagner family over 27 broadcasts made between 2014 and 2015.

In the judge-only trial, Justice Peter Flanagan found that Jones made 76 separate defamatory imputations "of the gravest kind", including that the Wagner family were responsible for the deaths of 12 people when a quarry wall owned by the family collapsed during the 2011 Grantham floods.

Jones went on to accuse the Wagners of attempting "a massive cover-up" and conspiring with prominent members of state and federal parliaments, reportedly including Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, to attempt evasion of liability for the tragic deaths.

Jones also claimed on air that the Wagner family had harmed national defence interests by illegally and corruptibly building the Wellcamp Airport and stealing airspace from the Oakey Army Base, in addition to insensitively and falsely claiming to have suffered during the Grantham floods.

The court revealed that 2GB radio and Jones argued that 57 of the defamatory imputations were substantially true.

2GB and Jones also attempted to defend 10 of the 27 broadcasts as fair reports into the Grantham Floods Inquiry.

The defence failed in all respects.

A court issued summary of the case said Jones, and vicariously 2GB and 4BC radio, engaged in unjustifiable conduct and were "motivated by a desire to injure the plaintiffs' reputations".

"Prior to the publication of the defamatory broadcasts, each plaintiff enjoyed an excellent reputation for honesty and integrity, both in business and community circles," said the court.

"The publication of the defamatory broadcasts was very extensive.

"The defamatory broadcasts have caused each of the plaintiffs to suffer profound personal hurt and harm to their reputations, which includes their business reputations."

Journalist Nick Cater, who was interviewed during one broadcast by Jones on 2GB, was also sued in the defamation case.

The court dismissed claims against Cater, finding that "neither by his own words or conduct" did he seek to convey claims that the Wagners caused the deaths of 12 people as Jones had alleged.

Jones, 2GB and 4BC are now permanently banned from publishing any of the matters complained of in the case.

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Author: Paris Faint

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