Legal ‘danger’

A journalism academic well versed in defamation law believes Vincent city council is leaving itself wide open to being sued by people with the same names of people convicted of trawling for sex in Highgate.

When Vincent first published its rogues gallery it left out middle names and suburbs and, in all but one case, ages.

In the weeks since it’s endeavoured to provide more details but of the five new names posted since, none have ages or suburbs and one—Liam Williams—had no middle name.

Curtin university journalism head Joseph Fernandez says  there is “room for confusion so that innocent people whose names resemble those named on the website might be mistaken for the offenders”.

“It is enough for the person suing for defamation to show that ordinary reasonable persons thought that the published name referred to him,” he says.

“Also, if the objective of this exercise is to actually shame the offender then such an outcome can only be achieved if the offender is clearly identifiable.”

Council CEO John Giorgi says the council’s not doing anything different to newspapers.

He says staff attend court but not all information is mentioned during hearings.

“Note that before launching the page, the city’s received legal advice concerning this matter,” he adds.

Disclosure: Reporter David Bell tutored in media law at Curtin in 2012 under Dr Fernandez.

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