Friday, 9 June 2017

Truth on Trial — Mark Darwin SLAPPs the Law

By Gi Linda

The truth about Truthology was first told in October 2016 when the Nimbin GoodTimes published an exposé of a local land-share fraud that had defrauded investors of over $1.5 million.

The trial about the truth of “The Truth about Truthology” began on June 9, 2017, with a directions hearing at Sydney Supreme Court. The initiating claim was lodged by Mark Darwin and collaborators on March 16, 2017, against myself and the Nimbin GoodTimes newspaper regarding publication of the article I wrote exposing Mark Darwin’s use of the fronts “Truthology” and “Freedom Summits” to deceive investors who were “selected” to become victims in his “Bhula Bhula Community Village” land-share fraud.

With Darwin’s ever-escalating requests for damages estimated to soar over $4million, giving a proposed cool one-million-dollars for each of four plaintiffs, this is by far the biggest defamation case in Australian history.

As a self-representing co-defendant I am cross-claiming against Mark Darwin and collaborators for malicious prosecution, since their defamation claim against me takes the form of a “SLAPP”, a legal trick designed according to the “Law of the Brute” to prioritise a litigant’s lust for gain over legitimate public concerns.

SLAPPs put profits before people by setting up an unfair Goliath v David battle between private and public interests, in which an overwhelming threat of litigation is used to silence critics and prevent free speech on issues of public concern. Everyone has the right to provide true information and discuss honest opinions that  expose such scams in the public interest. Facing-off against Goliath in the unequal slugfest are David's stone-slinging shepherd boys who have been fleeced and stand on their right to call such scurrilous profiteering just what it is: a “fraud”.

SLAPPs, “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” are an abuse of legal process in which power and profit almost always win against truth and justice, without ever going to trial. Litigants often drag out their costly cases for many years, not with the aim of winning and claiming damages, but as a means of “slapping” their opponents with punishment until they capitulate. Political and environmental activists are often “slapped” in malicious retaliation when the threaten corporate interests, and local public interest groups have been “slapped” to prevent them effectively exposing private economic interests that trample pubic concerns.

SLAPPs by plaintiffs who assume their private profits are more important than public interests are common in America, but they’re used infrequently in Australia, mostly by property developers to target and silence outspoken individuals who oppose them on public interest environmental matters.   One Judge described SLAPPs as, “suits without substantial merit, brought by private interests to stop citizens exercising political rights or punish them for having done so.”

Defamation charges are used by a plaintiff in a SLAPP as a powerful and effective bludgeon to traumatise and silence opponents who are literally “slapped down” with a massive weight of obfuscating evidence intended to cause an intimidating fear of crippling costs, damages and loss of reputation. The fear alone is usually enough to force the victim’s acquiescence to the litigant’s agenda of injustice before the matter goes to trial.

With a flourish of characteristic malice, Darwin’s statement of claim prominently featured gruesome photos of strangled goats along with a defamatory caption to effect that I am a “serial pest, crazy torturer and murderer of small animals.”  Darwin then posted this fabricated narrative on his website that is dedicated to defamation of me, where he linked further gloating ad hominem attacks to a copy of private correspondence by Nimbin GoodTimes’ lawyer who had accepted Darwin’s offer to discontinue litigation against the publisher in exchange for throwing me under the bus by removing the article, issuing a retraction and publishing full-page promotions of their land-share venture for the next year.

My article, copied at with additional visual commentary, was based on a draft chapter of a book I am writing about my experience as one of the victims of Mark Darwin’s fraud. The exposé was written as “The Truth about Truthology”, and retitled by Bob Dooley, editor and publisher of Nimbin’s colourful monthly newspaper,  as “TheTruth About Bhula Bhula”.

In his statement of claim against me, Darwin linked the Nimbin GoodTimes article with emails I had sent to other defrauded investors as we discovered we were trapped in a fraud. These private emails were intercepted and used out of context without permission of myself or the intended recipients. Darwin has charged that the publication of these truths and honest opinions about the falseology of “Truthology”, had damaged the plaintiffs' reputations and caused them financial loss.

At Friday’s directions hearing the plaintiffs’ barrister sought leave to submit an additional claim regarding two blogs that I publish for the “Association of Investors Defrauded by Darwin” (AIDD). Leave was granted to file an application for an interlocutory hearing to press for an injunction to have the blogs removed by court order.

The trial of the SLAPP  case will determine the truth of “The Truth about Truthology”. In this analogy,  the right of “Goliath” assumed by Mark Darwin and his mates is their right to profit from the sale of home-sites located on land where no habitation is permitted, and then misuse the power of the courts to disenfranchise betrayed investors without restitution.

The protection of free speech in Australia is embodied in the Commonwealth Constitution, which, for the legitimate functioning of representative government, presumes that citizens do have the ability to freely communicate their views.