A Melbourne barrister suing The Age for defamation has appeared in court to give evidence.
Damian Sheales was called as a witness in the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne in a trial against The Age, Fairfax Media Digital and reporter Patrick Bartley, which started on Friday.
Sheales claims he was defamed by an article written by Bartley and published by The Age in the paper and online.
Sheales had represented Melbourne horse trainers Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien in a matter in another court, which Bartley was reporting on. Sheales says he was defamed by criticism of his handling of their case in a report by Bartley.
In giving evidence Monday morning, Sheales said he couldn’t believe what he read in the newspaper on August 3, 2015. “I was so upset, I was just disbelieving about what had been written,” he said.
Sheales said in the days following the article’s publication, he was approached by judges, magistrates and QCs who had seen the article.
Sheales said he had called The Age to request a correction and apology that morning, but they had not done so.
“I made it very, very clear that in my opinion this was very serious,” he said. “Why The Age would want this sort of stuff in its newspaper I don’t know. I don’t know how Patrick Bartley can write black where it was white.”
A couple of days later, The Age‘s investigative journalist Nick McKenzie called Sheales about the concerns letter the barrister had sent the paper, asking whether Sheales was after money or an apology.
“I said I wanted an apology, I’m not interested in money,” Sheales told the court.
When asked if he had received an apology to date, Sheales said he had not, and the article was still the third result on a Google search for his name.
“I think it is a disgrace. They know they’re wrong, they’re just using their power,” he said.
The Age argues that the article is substantially true, and therefore not defamatory.
Damian Gilbertson QC, acting for Sheales, closed his case this morning and The Age did not call any witnesses before also closing its case.
The trial is being heard by jury, and is scheduled to run into next week. — Emily Watkins