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  • Cullen v White [2003] WA Supreme Court 153

Cullen v White [2003] WA Supreme Court 153


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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Internet defamation is a developing area of law for Perth defamation lawyers due to increasing usage of the internet and it’s now commonplace status as the primary method of modern communication.

This case is a benchmark decision for internet defamation in Australia and in particular is an important case for Perth defamation solicitors.

The Plaintiff (Dr. Cullen) a Perth Academic, was awarded $70,000.00 in compensatory damages and a further award of $25,000.00 by way of exemplary damages by the Supreme Court of Western Australia on 3 September 2003.

Dr Cullen and the Defendant (Mr White) first met whilst teaching at the same university.  It was not until after Mr White left the university that he started his campaign to harm the reputation of former colleagues at the university including that of Dr Cullen’s.

Dr Cullen also left the university to complete his doctoral studies in journalism at Queensland University.  Whilst studying there, various discredited and defamatory emails about Dr Cullen were sent to staff members and university executives.  It was alleged Mr White had made false imputations about Dr Cullen such as that he was a paedophile, had committed academic fraud, had falsified his credentials, was a dangerous felon, had committed blackmail and had falsely pretended to be a priest.  Due to such defamatory statements by Mr White upon graduating Dr Cullen found it almost impossible to obtain employment in Queensland.

Dr Cullen therefore moved to Edith Cowan University in Western Australia but Mr White only moved his attention to defaming Dr Cullen there as well.  In April 2002, Dr Cullen sued Mr White in the Supreme Court of Western Australia for internet defamation in which judgment was later awarded in favour of Dr Cullen.  Master Newnes held that Dr Cullen suffered distress, humiliation, embarrassment and damage to his reputation because of defamatory material published by Mr White.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

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