Penny Bright's defamation suit against Auckland Council chief dismissed

Activist Penny Bright accused Auckland Council chief Stephen Town of defamation.
ALEX BURTON / FAIRFAX NZ

Activist Penny Bright accused Auckland Council chief Stephen Town of defamation.

A High Court judge has thrown out activist Penny Bright's claims of defamation against Auckland Council's chief executive Stephen Town. 

Bright claimed that in a series of press releases issued by the Council, comments made by Town regarding her failure to pay rates defamed her. 

The Council had obtained judgements against Bright for her unpaid rates, the amount which stands at about $50,000. 

Bright has consistently said she won't pay rates on her Kingsland home until the Council was more transparent about its spending. 

She had variously, through the media, called the Council "draconian" and its chief executive Stephen Town "personally malicious and vindictive" and "corrupt", and in earlier hearings Town's lawyer William Akel said the press releases issued by the Council "set the record straight" for its taxpayers.

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In a press release issued October, 2014, Town said: "Ms Bright has made wild and inaccurate accusations about the Council and its probity and is using this as the basis for not paying her fair share to the ongoing running of Auckland. These assertions are completely unfounded and her actions are at the expense of all Aucklanders." 

Bright filed a defamation claim that December saying Town had tried to discredit her personally, and that his statements were designed to cause maximum distress and damage to her reputation. 

Town sought a summary judgment against her to end the proceedings and in a High Court issued judgment released to media on Monday, Justice Smith granted the application. 

He concluded that no properly directed jury would find any ill will in Town's comments, nor that he took advantage of his platform, and said the defence of qualified privilege applied. 

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"The law is clear that a person who has been subject to a personal attack of that nature...is robustly entitled to defend his or her position," Justice Smith said. 

"In my view the words used were relatively measured when considered against the strength of some of the language used by Ms Bright in her attacks on the Council and Mr Town, and they were directed only to statements made by Ms Bright on a particular topic." 

 

 - Stuff

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